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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Singer David Osmond Brings Voice to Novartis Multiple Sclerosis Campaign




I Can Do This,” the new music video from David Osmond of the musical Osmond familyhas the clan’s trademark upbeat positive style, with images of men and women overcoming barriers and obstacles to reach a goal.
But the obstacle that inspired him to write it is multiple sclerosis, which Mr.Osmond was diagnosed with in 2006.  The song and video are part of an awareness campaign that is an unusual team-up between an entertainer with a disease and a drug company with a treatment, in this case Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG  which makes an oral MS medication, Gilenya.
As reported in the Informed Patient column today, new efforts are underway to raise awareness of how lifestyle factors like nutrition and exercise can help patients with MS, in concert with a host of medications such as Gilenya. MS leads the body’s immune system to attack the protective covering surrounding nerves in the brain, spinal cord and eyes, leading to problems with muscle control, balance, vision and thinking.
For Mr. Osmond   it meant being unable to sing or play the guitar, vision problems and a wheelchair in the early days – devastating after a promising career start performing in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and singing with his brothers in the Osmonds 2nd Generation Band
But his form of MS, known as relapsing-remitting, is characterized by periods of stability between attacks, and he was able to resume work, even appearing as a contestant on American Idol in 2009. He also married and had two daughters, and became a celebrity ambassador of sorts for the disease at MS events, speaking frankly about his battle with its effects.
“I remember feeling darkness at first and asking the burning question, ‘why me,” he says in an interview. “It took a while to come to grips with it.” As it happens, his father Alan Osmond, founder of the troupe of singing Osmond brothers, also has a form of MS, and he urged his son not to let it take over his life. The song for the Novartis campaign, he says, echoes what his family told him over and over again: “You can do this, David.” (He is also the nephew of Donnie and Marie Osmond, the long-running sibling duo whose act is a Las Vegas staple.)
Mr. Osmond began taking Gilenya after it was introduced in 2010.  Aware of his advocacy,  Novartis approached him through his agent, at a time when he was looking for new ways to get involved, to discuss the idea of an awareness campaign to motivate  people with relapsing-remitting MS to take charge of their disease. The company is compensating him for his participation but they are not disclosing the details of their agreement.  Novartis licensed “I Can Do This” and is offering it as a free download on the website for the campaign, dubbed Our Voice in Song.
Christi Shaw, president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., the U.S. affiliate of Novartis in East Hanover, N.J., says Mr. Osmond is an ideal spokesperson for MS patients, conveying a spirit of optimism and hope along with encouragement to seek practical information about dealing with the disease and engaging with their doctors to optimize care.
Novartis already has a website for Gilenya, as well as a Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter handle to help MS patients connect with each other, share their stories and find information. The Our Voice in Song site isn’t aimed at promoting the drug,  Ms. Shaw says, but because Gilenya is mentioned once, for regulatory reasons every page has to include information about the drug.
Mr. Osmond isn’t required to talk about the drug as part of the deal. One of the things he does offer on the website is tips for living well with MS, such as staying active, eating well, and “finding something that works for you; something you find motivating and that will give you that little extra drive to stay positive.”



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