Results from the MSD’s #CancerScreening Barometer 2021

04/04/2022

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The MSD #CancerScreening Barometer is a survey that reflects the knowledge and attitude of the Belgian population towards cancer screening.

Cancer screening is an important factor that positively impacts disease outcome, unfortunately, the survey shows that 6 out of 10 Belgians have the feeling they lack information on screening.

Belgium is at the European top regarding breast cancer screening

But 78% of surveyed women weren’t aware of the recommended screening age of 50, and 25% of those above 55 years old have never had mammography.

Other cancers have even worse numbers, where 46% of men above 50 have never done a colon cancer screening and even 66% of them for prostate cancer.

1/3 of the respondents find cancer screening a painful and scary experience, but it saves lives.

Cancer screening is not a fun experience, 1/3 of the respondents find it a painful and scary experience, but it saves lives.

78% of the respondents also think we have a huge gap to fill in terms of cancer diagnosis due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has already been confirmed by the medical community.

Let’s work together on creating more awareness on screening and screening programs to help improve disease outcomes in Belgium.

Download the infographic in FR and NL.

Finding yourself after surviving head and neck cancer

04/04/2022

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Head and neck cancer will impact not only someone’s health, but also someone’s sense of self. Paolo Berti survived head and neck cancer caused by the papillomavirus. In two years time, three tumors had to be removed. For the first tumor they used chemoradiotherapy, for the second a lymph node dissection and for the third tumor he had to undergo robotic surgery. Paolo shares his story about the way the disease has changed his life.

Something we need to talk about

It is pretty well known that the papillomavirus can cause severe diseases such as cervical cancer. It is less well known that it can also seriously affect men and cause diseases such as head and neck cancer.

“When you receive the diagnosis, you can’t help but ask yourself ‘why me?’. You don’t understand why this is happening to you. Being a non-smoker and a non-drinker, it took the doctors more than a year to determine that the disease was caused by the papillomavirus. That’s why it’s very important to me to talk about the ways in which this virus can affect men.”

Rebuilding life as a cancer survivor

The treatment of the head and neck cancer had a big effect on the way Paolo speaks. It is more difficult to understand him, which impacts both his personal and his professional relations.

“I was a salesman, I was often on the road. It was easy for me to talk to people. I was a communicative person. But now, unfortunately, communicating is not easy for me. My speech is not very clear, I am not easy to understand. Sometimes this can hold me back.

My friends and family know me, so it’s not an issue for them, but it’s hard when you have to ask for information on the phone or when you have to present yourself for work. Those moments are very difficult.

Accepting what happened

After the diagnosis and the treatment, Paolo was left feeling unhinged. The life he had known before was gone. He had to rediscover who he was and what was important to him.

“The most difficult part is accepting what happened and to find a new drive. Both physically and mentally, the recovery was very difficult. I lost 22 kg and had to rebuild a lot of muscle mass. And I had some trouble mentally, because many of the things that I did before are now no longer possible. Everything that you worked for the past 48 years, your studies, your career … just like that it’s gone.

You have to find yourself again. At the beginning it was very hard. But I have adopted two dogs and I often go on walks with them. Slowly, I am finding myself again. It was hard at first, but now I can manage.

Confucius once said: ‘you only have two lives and the second one begins once you realize that you only have one.’ To me, this means that you really have to enjoy every moment, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.”

Working at MSD: together we create a more hopeful future

04/04/2022

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At MSD we invent for life, for a more hopeful future. All our employees, both inside and outside of the laboratory have one thing in common: the desire to improve and save lives through continuous innovation. Discover more about the values and beliefs that motivate us.

To live life in full colours

We know that life can surprise you, sometimes for good, and sometimes for worse when your health is threatened. We want to be there for you during those difficult moments in your life. Or better yet, to prevent those moments from happening. We invent and innovate, so that you can live life to the fullest. That’s what motivates us.

We see possibilities

We approach each project as a white canvas. There are no restraints, only possibilities. We face challenges as they come and rely on integrity, knowledge, imagination, skill and teamwork to find a solution.

Together we fight diseases such as cancer, HIV and Ebola, develop vaccines and invent new medicine. We have been doing this for over 130 years and will continue to challenge ourselves to stay at the forefront of research to prevent and treat disease that threaten people and animals.

4 values to guide us

No matter what challenge we face, our actions and decisions are always guided by four values that represent the very core of our character:

  • Patients first: All of our actions must be measured against our responsibility to those who use or need our products;
  • Respect for people: We work to create an environment of mutual respect, inclusion and accountability. We reward commitment and performance and are responsive to the needs of our employees and their families;
  • Ethics and integrity: We are committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. We do not take professional or ethical shortcuts. Our interactions with all segments of society must be transparent and reflect these high standards.
  • Innovation and scientific excellence: Our research is guided by a commitment to improving health and the quality of life. We strive to identify the most critical needs of patients and customers, and through continuous innovation we challenge ourselves to meet those needs.
Our People

This leader works to ensure diversity and inclusion is visible in everything we do

Deepak Khanna, president, Europe and Canada, demonstrates how “diversity is a fact, but inclusion is an act”

04/04/2022

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Inclusion in the workplace is said to be key to employee retention. And research shows that hiring a diverse and inclusive workforce contributes to higher revenue growth, greater readiness to innovate and the increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool.

“For our company, diversity and inclusion is something that everyone is really passionate about and something I like to see in everything we do."

Deepak Khanna

President, Europe and Canada

Khanna oversees about 6,000 employees in our company’s commercial operations across Europe and Canada. These operations include sales, marketing, pricing and access, and external affairs — which can range from the process of getting our medicines approved to making them available to patients, governments, payers and health care providers.

“As a leader, I work to ensure that we are reaching a diverse set of patients who can benefit from our innovations, and that patients of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have access to them,” said Khanna.

When it comes to our leadership programs, how we interact with customers, how we support inclusion in our communities, and our external communications such as online messaging, Khanna ensures we uphold our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“It’s not only important that diversity and inclusion is visible at our company, but it is also important to ensure that our medicines are available and affordable to patients who need them all over the world, whether they’re rich or poor. We also work to make sure health care literacy is made available, so people understand what their medicines are, what their health care system is and how to best navigate it,” he explained.

“Diversity has always been a part of my life”

Diversity and inclusion has been a passion of Khanna’s from an early age.

Khanna, who is of Indian descent, was born in London and moved to Canada when he was about two years old. After spending four years in Canada where he learned to speak French, his family moved to Chicago and then finally to California where he spent much of his teen and early adult years.

“I’ve grown up around people from different cultures and backgrounds so for me it is just a natural way of life and a natural way of working,” said Khanna.

Once he joined our company, Khanna held various roles that gave him the opportunity to travel the world, where he further learned to appreciate different cultures and backgrounds.

“Diversity of cultures is something that I’ve always been fascinated by because there’s always something to learn from other people, how they do things and how they approach things,” said Khanna. “The ability to appreciate other cultures and diversities of all kinds including race, gender and religion, is what helps us all get a broader perspective on work and life.”

A role model in diversity and inclusion

Khanna’s diverse background and exposure to different cultures and values were influential in developing his passion for diversity and inclusion. But most of all, one person in his life truly inspired him: his great uncle.

Khanna’s great uncle was a physician and a general in the Indian Air Force. From the time he retired to when he was around 85 years old, he would still open his home several days a week to treat the poor people in his neighborhood for free.

“I’ll never forget that. He just said, ‘We are privileged, and I want to make sure for as long as I am able that I continue to treat any person around the neighborhood I can. It doesn’t matter how much money they have, I want to make sure they have access to medicines and that I can help them,” said Khanna.

Khanna kept the lesson from his great uncle to support others that are less fortunate.

“I did learn from him the importance of giving. It doesn’t matter who you are, you should have access to treatment and medical care, and I try to translate that to what I do in my role.”

Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is an act

Throughout his time at our company, Khanna has taken to heart something a team member once told him: “diversity is a fact, but inclusion is an act.”

In other words, we can measure diversity with numbers, but leaders also need to know how to leverage diversity of thought and culture into something more.

“What I’ve learned is focusing on diversity is important, but it doesn’t mean a lot until you figure out how you can get this diverse group of people to work together in the most effective way,” said Khanna.

He thinks it’s important to make sure people feel safe to speak up, and to always look for ways to make them feel welcome and comfortable in an inclusive environment.

“People could be scared to speak up because it could have an impact on them or they may think leaders don’t really listen, but the impact of that is we will lose the diversity of thoughts and beliefs that can make us a better business,” he said.

And Khanna believes that other point of views, perspectives and cultures give us the knowledge on how to best approach a business problem or challenge.

“That is what diversity and inclusion brings,” said Khanna. “Different and unique perspectives on how to do things in a very different way, keeping us fresh and nimble and able to respond to any challenges we have to face.”

Health Awareness

You have the power to help prevent disease

Life as we once knew it has changed. One thing that hasn’t changed is our focus on our families. By following routine vaccination schedules, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones during these uncertain times.

November 17, 2021

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Managing your health can be tough, especially during a pandemic. Fortunately, there’s still a lot you can do to help keep yourself and your family healthy. By staying up to date on recommended vaccinations, you can help prevent a variety of infectious diseases.

Talk to your health care provider to learn which vaccines are recommended for you and your family.

Infants and children

Adolescents

Adults

Your health care provider can help

If you’re preparing for an appointment, here’s a checklist of suggested questions to ask and actions to take to help keep you safe:

Ask office if there are designated hours for sick vs. well visits
Ask if there are guidelines in place for social distancing (e.g., waiting room guidelines, a wait in car protocol, check-in by phone, etc.)
Wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer
Health Awareness

4 ways to drive progress in cancer care beyond the pandemic

Vicki Goodman, vice president, therapeutic area head, late-stage oncology, on how we’re supporting cancer care despite COVID-19 and what it means for the future

November 17, 2021

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Since joining the field of cancer research almost two decades ago, I’ve seen tremendous advances made as we’ve learned more about the disease and identified better ways to approach it. But how do we sustain this momentum when COVID-19 is disrupting health systems and lives everywhere? And how can we leverage insights from the pandemic to continue making advances? We’re giving a lot of thought to these questions because we know the cancer community is counting on us.

Here are four ways we’re supporting people with cancer today and beyond.

Vicki Goodman, vice president, therapeutic area head, late-stage oncology

01.

Support cancer patients with resources so they can get the care they need

It’s essential for people with cancer to receive uninterrupted care, especially during an unprecedented pandemic. We’re working closely with health care stakeholders to support continuity of care through educational initiatives and raising cancer awareness in our communities.

And, because we know that patients have better outcomes with earlier diagnoses, we’re encouraging cancer screenings. This is vital as cancer screening rates have fallen dramatically during the pandemic.

02.

Maintain a continuous supply of essential medicines and vaccines

It’s important that patients get the medicines and vaccines they need, so our manufacturing plants and supply sites have remained open. While we’re always prepared for disruptions, the pandemic has posed unique challenges that call for an agile response. To help us weather future disruptions, we’re implementing new ways of working, such as:

  • shifting resources to where they’re needed most
  • leveraging digital technologies to troubleshoot problems virtually as they occur

03.

Continue to advance our research

The number of people facing cancer is growing, and by 2030, 22 million people are expected to be diagnosed globally. We must continue advancing research. Our scientific teams are working tirelessly to find new ways to treat cancer, particularly for some of the most challenging forms of the disease.

The world needs new therapies to improve survival in cancer patients, and we will keep working toward that goal with the urgency all patients deserve.

Therefore, in recent years, we have also worked to increase patient diversity in our clinical trials, allowing more patients to access medicines.

04.

Build collaboration to improve cancer health systems

At a time when health systems are under intense pressure to allocate limited resources, we’re collaborating with health care organizations and industry peers to support the sustainability of medicines funding and research. For example, we have several collaborations with the City Cancer Challenge and we are a long-term sponsor of global advocacy organization the Union for International Cancer Control.

We remain focused on trying to improve cancer care, even as we face the pandemic. All the people we’re trying to protect – brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, spouses – are what inspire our urgency to keep up the pace. With their needs at the center of everything we do, I’m confident that we’ll sustain the momentum against cancer during the pandemic and beyond.

Health Awareness

At risk for lung cancer? Know the signs & symptoms

Don't gloss over it, visit a doctor – do it FOR yourself

November 17, 2021

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Delayed doctor’s visits can have a lasting impact, especially for those at risk for lung cancer

With more time spent at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us became do-it-yourself-ers – taking on new home improvement projects, dinner recipes and self-care routines. But one thing we may not have tackled is our health.

According to the World Health Organization, many countries experienced disruptions to health services during the pandemic, including primary care visits and cancer screenings.

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This is concerning because certain diseases, such as lung cancer, have better outcomes when detected early.

Annabelle Gurwitch, best-selling author and activist living with lung cancer

“In May 2020, I went to an urgent care center for a COVID-19 test. I mentioned I had a persistent cough but couldn’t recall how long it had been going on – and like many people during the pandemic, I put off going to the doctor to have it checked out. The COVID-19 test was negative, but a chest X-ray revealed a concerning mass on one of my lungs. Soon after, I received a diagnosis of stage four lung cancer.”

Early detection of lung cancer is important

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, accounting for nearly 1-in-5 cancer-related deaths. Most lung cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached a late stage and are harder to treat.

That’s why it’s so important to get our primary care visits back on track, especially if something isn’t right.

“Many are unaware of the importance of early detection and there’s also very little understanding about lung cancer in general, including the signs and symptoms of the disease. Personally, I had no idea how prevalent lung cancer is among active, otherwise healthy, non-smoking women like myself. Had I been aware, I might have gotten my cough checked out sooner and maybe even been diagnosed at an earlier stage. That’s why I am sharing my story to encourage people to prioritize their health and schedule their routine doctor’s visits,” says Annabelle.

Recognizing symptoms of lung cancer and knowing your risk

Some of the most common symptoms of lung cancer are an unexplained, persistent cough lasting more than three weeks or shortness of breath.

While anyone can get lung cancer, your risk goes up if you are over 50 years old and:

  • currently smoke or smoked in the past
  • have been around secondhand smoke
  • have a family history of the disease, such as a parent or sibling
*The above list does not include all risk factors for lung cancer

Don’t gloss over it: Schedule a doctor’s visit

Now that we are starting to return to our regular schedules, it’s time to tackle our health again. If you have an unexplained cough lasting more than three weeks or shortness of breath, don’t gloss over it.

While you may still have some concerns about visiting your doctor, most offices have rules to protect their patients, such as COVID-19 screenings. Work with your doctor to come up with a plan that’s best for you.

Do it FOR yourself and take this simple step to help protect your health.

Innovation

Taking on Ebola

How science and innovation fuel our efforts to help combat a deadly disease

November 17, 2021

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Patients are our purpose. That’s why we pursue the best science in our inventions and everything we do. Every breakthrough we create has the potential to build a healthier, more hopeful future for people everywhere.

Our company is a health care leader in the fight against Ebola. Along with external collaborators from all sectors, our scientists are at the forefront of the response to outbreaks of this deadly disease as we continue to address this global health challenge. Ebola Zaire virus has had a devastating impact on the world and has proved itself to be a deadly and contagious disease, with a survival rate of 50%.

MSD plays an important role in discovering and developing innovative medicines and vaccines to treat and help prevent infectious diseases. Global public health preparedness against future Ebola outbreaks requires advanced planning, system readiness for rapid deployment and collaboration and partnership between public and private entities around the world. Our partnerships with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health partners around the globe are a crucial component of our commitment to helping save and improve lives.

“It’s something that we take incredibly seriously and with a great sense of urgency to make sure that we do everything we can to support the teams on the front lines,” says Beth-Ann Coller, distinguished scientist, clinical research, MSD Vaccines.

“Our team works with a 24-7 mentality to help tackle these outbreaks.”

Beth-Ann Coller

Safeguarding the future

In 2021, MSD established an agreement with UNICEF to create the world’s first global Ebola stockpile, the result of breakthrough innovation and collaboration with four leading international health and humanitarian organizations across the world. The global stockpile will offer a critical, rapid-response tool to help combat future outbreaks of this highly contagious illness that is endemic in parts of Central and West Africa.

“It has been our honor to collaborate with WHO, Gavi, UNICEF, the U.S. government and many others in getting to this point,” says John Markels, Ph.D., president of MSD Vaccines. “While there remains important work ahead, the stockpile is a new and powerful tool in supporting future outbreak preparedness and response efforts. This historic milestone demonstrates what’s possible when partners come together to pursue a common purpose.”

This level of collaboration continues to be needed for Ebola and other diseases. We remain committed to working in collaboration with WHO and other global and local health partners to support current and future outbreak response efforts.

As seen in the most recent suspected outbreak in Côte d’Ivoire declared in August 2021, our work continues. We will maintain our efforts for as long as needed.

Watch the video

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Women in science? Absolutely

Strong career paths and cutting-edge science draw more women to our small molecule process R&D team

October 29, 2021

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Women have made an essential impact on the rich history of our company and continue to inspire our present and future. Our world is diverse. To have the greatest impact, we champion a diverse workforce that reflects the individuals we serve, including women. 

Globally, women make up nearly half of our workforce. They hold 36 percent of executive roles and 43 percent of management and senior management roles, and in Europe, they lead our largest country markets.

Today, meet some inspiring colleagues from MSD BeLux and learn what means for them to be #WomenInScience. 

Responsibility

Solidarity rising in the face of adversity

Finding new ways to fight COVID-19 across diverse populations in Africa

October 29, 2021

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In many parts of Africa, poverty means that often 10 people are living in a one-room building less than three feet apart from their neighbors and many households share a single water pump.

Soap is a luxury item.

And that means that precautionary measures such as social distancing and hand washing can be hard, if not impossible, to implement.

“The advice the world is getting is to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing, but that won’t work for everyone here,” says Priya Agrawal, a physician and our company’s managing director in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. “There are people who have to leave their homes to get food and water for their families. If they must choose between basic survival and protecting themselves from COVID-19, hunger and thirst are going to win every time.”

COVID-19 infections have surfaced in approximately 215 countries and territories, including nearly 50 in Africa. When infections were first reported in Africa, governments and organizations swung into action to stop the spread.

“Our continent is so diverse. We have good health care and communication in some areas, but they’re stretched thin and extremely limited in others,” says Priya. “We had to ask, ‘How can we work together to stop this virus and protect the people and economy of Africa?’”

Solidarity ‘like I’ve never seen before’

Our company and others in the private sector began working together and collaborating with governments and health organizations to find ways to help. “Solidarity emerged like I’ve never seen before,” says Priya.

Donations from our company and other organizations and citizens to the President’s Solidarity Fund provided support to relief organizations and purchased much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for the country. Priya, her husband and our company are working with many other volunteers from the private sector to procure PPE for all health workers in South Africa. In the first six weeks of the pandemic in South Africa, Business for South Africa (a group of companies that came together to support the Government’s efforts in response to the pandemic) secured 900,000 pairs of sterile gloves, 12 million N95 masks, more than 38 million surgical masks for health workers and patients and 200 ventilators.

“COVID-19 is an extraordinary challenge. And what I have observed in South Africa is extraordinary collaboration. Competitors working side-by-side for the country. Companies sharing information real-time to ensure everyone’s employees were safe. Our company is dedicated to saving and improving lives, and that commitment extends well beyond medicines and vaccines,” says Priya. “It includes supporting health care providers and the communities they serve.”

From masks to meals

“South African residents are required to wear cloth masks during lockdown, but not everyone can afford or have access to them,” says Priya. “At the same time, we are seeing people suffer financial distress due to lost incomes. This affects women disproportionately, especially as women make up the majority of informal and migrant workers.”

One of our employees came up with a brilliant idea: Help women who are out of work launch a business making cloth masks.

“This effort can help protect vulnerable populations from the virus and empowers these women to become entrepreneurs so they can continue to have an income and feed their families,” says Priya.

Sustaining the silver lining

Priya says companies, governments and relief organizations have shown “courageous decision-making and leadership” during the COVID-19 public health crisis. “We’ve seen many positive things, silver linings, emerge from this pandemic.”

The power of partnerships is a key lesson learned in Africa during the virus outbreak. “Now, we must sustain the silver linings and continue to work together,” says Priya.

Podcasting about the pandemic

Learn more insights from Priya Agrawal by listening to her podcast.

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Candid conversations

Communication can be a big challenge in Africa. Technology varies from place to place, which means informing populations about health concerns requires creative approaches as well as providing trusted and accurate information. That’s where Nivi comes in.

Nivi is an interactive mobile chat service, the development of which was supported by funding from MSD for Mothers, our company’s global initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die while giving life. “The platform has built-in artificial intelligence that allows users to have personalized conversations about health topics, including COVID-19,” says Mark Allen, director of strategic partnerships and global programs, MSD for Mothers.

Nivi initially launched to advance maternal health and reproductive health, especially among the younger generation. More than one million people have engaged with the platform in Kenya and India – largely young women and men.

Individuals can now use Nivi to talk about COVID-19 and ask about symptoms, risks, prevention and more. “Young people love it because they can say what’s on their minds,” says Priya. “They don’t want to hear about handwashing. They want to know if they can catch COVID-19 from kissing. Nivi facilitates those candid conversations.”