Why Health Literacy matters to us at MSD

September 2022

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Antibodies. Variants. Transmissibility. Who would have ever thought we’d use words like these in everyday life?

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is to understand health information to help keep ourselves and our families, friends and communities healthy.

Improving health literacy – defined as a person’s ability to find, understand and use information and services to make health-related decisions for themselves and others – is important to health situations across the board, from disease prevention options to clinical trials to cancer, HIV, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many others.

Getting information that is accurate, relevant and presented in a meaningful way is challenging- especially in the digital age where we might have to navigate often contradictory health messages or even misinformation. As a pharmaceutical company, MSD has a vital role to play in ensuring that the information we provide to the people who are prescribed our medicines reaches the highest standards.

It is for this reason we have committed to joining the Patient Information Forum’s PIF-TICK standard . Being part of the scheme not only means we should be assuring accuracy, but also co-creating health information with the people it is being made for. It also means working collaboratively with organisations who know the communities most affected by the diseases and conditions we work in. Our policy statement on patient information creation can be found here

Why improving health literacy is urgent

The Patient Information forum say that:

  • 1 in 6 in UK have very low literacy skills[i], [ii]
  • up to 1 million people in UK cannot speak English well or at all[iii]

Knowing that this will impact on health inequality and outcomes means we know we need to do a better job at meeting people where they are and on their terms.

How we’re making health information easier to understand

Internationally, some of the ways we’re improving health literacy in our own communications include:

  • Creating easy-to-read patient labels
  • Improving packaging and instructions for use
  • Developing easy-to-understand disease education materials
  • Improving health literacy in clinical trials
  • Sharing best practices externally

There is always more we can do and we aim to keep improving.

Have you seen some MSD patient materials or information?

What did you think?

We would love suggestions on how we could do better and things we should do more of. Email our Medical Information team at:

[i] Survey of Adult Skills 2012

[ii] Skills for Life 2011


GB-NON-06409 | Date of Preparation: September 2022


MSD launches Fifty Over 50: Giving people growing older with HIV a voice

September 2022

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A unique listening project in partnership with several leading HIV organisations, with a mission to hear from people who are growing older with HIV.

Thanks to decades of clinical research, innovation and cross-sector collaboration, HIV has largely become a chronic condition in the UK. The UK has led the way in achieving the UNAIDS targets of 90% of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, of those with a known HIV diagnosis 90% receiving treatment, and of those receiving treatment 90% having an undetectable viral load.

The progress which has been made through improvements in testing and treatment has been remarkable, and new diagnoses of HIV continue to decrease in the UK. However, as the number of people who are now growing older with HIV increases, this brings with it a host of new or additional challenges.

The Fifty Over 50 project, coordinated by MSD in collaboration with the Whole Person Care group of HIV community and professional organisations, is a unique listening exercise which set out to give people growing older with HIV a voice. Fifty Over 50 brings together first-hand accounts from a diverse range of people living with HIV aged 50+, and highlights how for many in the HIV community being well is about more than just viral suppression, it’s also about living well.

Ben Lucas, Managing Director for MSD in the UK and Ireland, commented:

“I am immensely proud that MSD have worked with all the individual contributors and organisations that form part of Fifty Over 50 – providing a platform for people to share their experiences and shine a light on the changes that are needed to support people living with HIV to live well across the entirety of their life.”

Learn more about Fifty Over 50 and hear what our contributors had to share in the e-book here.

GB-NON-06155 | Date of Preparation: July 2022


Over 100 hours of volunteering – Employees ‘Give Back’

September 2022

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As part of MSD’s volunteering policy – employees attended a 2 day event with a London charity

In the first week of July, members of our Early Talent Forum, comprised of student placements, graduates, and apprentices, utilised MSD’s volunteering leave policy to collectively commit over 100 hours of volunteering at The Passage – London’s largest voluntary sector day centre for homeless and vulnerable people.

Across 2 days, they worked intensely to prepare food for a fundraising event. The sessions were held at The Passage’s Resource Centre in Westminster, where the charity provides immediate services like meals, showers, laundry, medical appointments, and substance misuse and mental health support.

Our volunteers were called upon to help preparations for The Passages annual Summer Garden Party. Rolling their sleeves up for two busy days of chopping, slicing, and dicing, our volunteers helped ready a buffet of food items, including hulling 250 punnets of strawberries, dicing over 200 onions, and packaging 200+ tubs of coleslaw, salad, and salsa.

The impact of their work was imminently felt. ‘We only have two permanent chefs’ Fran Hodge, Volunteering Manager at the Passage told our volunteers, ‘They’re fun and they run a tight ship.’ With only two days to go before the big event, and preparations to be made for over 500+ people, our early talent volunteers were eager and active in fulfilling their culinary duties.

The event was labelled a ‘gleaming success’ and fundraised for the hundreds of vulnerable people and rough sleepers the Passage aids, helping them to live safe, happy and fulfilling live.

Having completed his volunteering session feeling freshly fulfilled, ETF co-lead and volunteer co-ordinator, Sam Rogers, reflects on his experience ‘MSD’s volunteering policy speaks to something that is intrinsic to everyone in the company – a want to ‘give back’. We really want to thank all the wonderful people at The Passage. It was inspiring to see the passion and hard work behind what you do and rewarding for us to get an insight into your world and lend a helping hand’’

GB-NON-06233 | Date of Preparation: July 2022


Celebrating 10 years of the RTC Fellowship for Global Health

September 2022

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This year, 32 of our employees from around the world will be supporting the efforts of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) through our Richard T. Clark Fellowship for Global Health programme.

Every year, a cohort of global employees enrol onto the company’s three-month corporate pro bono programme. Through leveraging the skills and knowledge of our Fellows, the programme aims to assist our NGO partners in strengthening their capacity and reach with technical and human capital support; in turn providing increased access to health services, products and education to their local communities. Though the programme is only three months in length, the impact that the Fellowship has on the NGO partners, MSD in the UK, and its employees lasts long after the project’s completion.

2022 marks the tenth year of the Fellowship programme, and this year, thirty-two employees from 13 countries will serve as RTC Fellows from July 25th to October 7th. The Fellows will work in small cross-functional teams across 11 global projects, serving communities across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America in a diverse range of areas including clinical research, oncology, supply chain, and sexual health.

MSD in the UK is delighted that two of our employees, Nat Philips and Sara Khan, will be participating in this year’s Fellowship.

Always seeking new opportunities to grow, Internal Communications Senior Specialist Nat Philips is passionate about making a difference to the health outcomes to the populations that she works with:

‘The RTC Fellowship has been on my radar since I joined MSD in 2014, but it is only since it became a remote opportunity during COVID that I felt able to apply. I am excited to be able to join a programme where my knowledge and skills accrued across 25 years in the public and commercial sectors can be utilised to benefit others at a global scale; and I am curious to what I will learn from undertaking this project that will benefit my role at MSD when I return to work in October.’

With a background in primary care, Associate Director Medical Affairs Sara Khan is excited to make a difference through her work with the programme:

‘Prior to joining MSD, I was a Primary Care Physician with an interest in global and public health, and so when I first heard about the RTC Fellowship, I was immediately drawn to it and envisaged it being deeply rewarding. I also felt it would suit my skillset, meaning I could provide effective and impactful support to the NGOs that are part of the fellowship. I am excited about the programme starting, working in a small global team, and seeing what we can achieve during the 3-month programme!’

We wish Nat and Sara well on their Fellowship journeys, and look forward to hearing more about their experiences once they return!

GB-NON-06123 | Date of Preparation: June 2022


MSD signs lease on Discovery Centre and UK HQ in London

September 2022

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[Photo: Artist impression of future new Discovery Centre and Headquarters in London]

This will be a new, 25,000 square metre specialised office life sciences laboratory and office facility strategically located at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter

MSD announced today that the Belgrove House site, carefully identified as the location of choice for a £1bn life sciences investment by the US biopharmaceutical company has been secured.

This long-term lease will allow MSD to develop a Discovery Centre and UK HQ with the aim of ensuring that innovation is at the heart of drug discovery, whilst its position in the Kings Cross area will provide proximity to leading UK academic and industry research, access to Europe, as well as offer unique collaboration opportunities.

MSD has worked collaboratively with developer, Precis Advisory Ltd., Camden Council and the local community to get to this stage. Once developed, the discovery research centre and HQ will be home to 800 MSD employees, ranging from discovery research, clinical and support roles, to marketing, finance, and administration. 

Currently, MSD has a growing discovery research team located at the London BioScience Innovation Centre and the neighbouring Francis Crick Institute. The teams have established successful scientific collaborations with leading UK institutions including The Crick and Kings College London, as well as European biotechnology companies. In addition, MSD is a founding member of Our Future Health in the UK, and an active participant in several research consortia focused in the area of neurodegeneration, one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare.

The Belgrove House development will meet high environmental sustainability standards.  MSD will also be delivering an ambitious educational outreach programme in collaboration with Camden STEAM and is steadfast in its commitment to giving back to the local community through investment, volunteering and by providing areas of the building for the public to access and use.

The developer plans to undertake the initial demolition phase this year, with construction expected to start by early 2023, finalising in late 2027.

In early 2021, MSD’s UK HQ moved from Hertfordshire to interim offices in Moorgate to be part of a thriving life-sciences ecosystem, with unrivalled access to talent and connectivity.

Speaking, following progress to exchange on the lease, Dr Fiona Marshall, Senior Vice President and Head of Discovery, Preclinical and Translational Medicine at MSD, commented:

“MSD is proud to be delivering on our UK investment plans, with a future that puts our scientists at the heart of a vibrant centre for innovation and technology development alongside leading research institutes which include some of our current research collaboration partners.  Our mission to discover and develop therapeutics that address unmet medical needs for patients with diseases of ageing is underway in earnest, harnessing the passion and potential of world-leading scientific minds across industry and academia.”

Ben Lucas, Managing Director for MSD in the UK and Ireland, commented:

“We are delighted to have signed the lease on Belgrove House, moving us tangibly forwards in our mission to save and improve lives through investing in pioneering science.  MSD is aligned to the UK’s Life Sciences Vision and committed to playing a leading role in the ecosystem here, with a focus on an innovation partnership with UK Government and the NHS that delivers for patients.  Locally, we are focused on building a strong connection with the community and on contributing positively through our work to such a vibrant environment.”

Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business, commented:

“I am delighted that London will be the home of MSD’s new Discovery Research Centre and UK Headquarters, further boosting London’s position as a world-leading life sciences hub.”

[Photo: Artist impression of future new Discovery Centre and Headquarters in London]

GB-NON-06005 | Date of Preparation May 2022


Supporting Local Health Systems to Optimise Immunisation Delivery

September 2022

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How we supported the Royal Society of Public Health to develop resources for local immunisation teams

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout saw significant collaboration across sectors and through engagement with local communities.

Joint working between the NHS and local government has been a hallmark of success for the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Given this, there is a lot we can learn about this success and considerations we can make for other vaccination programmes.

MSD has sponsored a project with the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) to recognise the role of local government in the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and to consider how they could play a larger role in improving all routine immunisations in the future.

The Assuring and Improving Immunisation Services Digital Toolkit[i] provides a series of resources for leaders in local health systems (Directors of Public Health, commissioners, immunisation leads etc.) to improve immunisation overall coverage in their area and reduce inequalities in access and uptake.

This has been informed by two in-depth workshops with local leaders in Birmingham and Cheshire along with several 1-1 interviews with public health leaders. Whatever their role within the system, the toolkit recommends to:

  • Work collaboratively and transparently as a system, bringing together primary and secondary healthcare, social care, public health, health visitors, and the VCSE sectors
  • Begin by collating recent data and intelligence on local vaccination coverage rates, and using this to identify areas for further investigation and action.
  • Share data and intelligence across the system, continuing the precedent initiated by COVID-19
  • Engage with the local community to build public understanding of, and confidence in vaccinations
  • Proactively support underserved groups and those who experience health inequities to access vaccination

To find out more about our work with RSPH and the Local Immunisation Toolkit, please contact Vaccines Policy & Communications team member, Shannon Lacombe at:  

[1] Royal Society for Public Health: The Assuring and Improving Immunisation Services Toolkit, last accessed April 2022

GB-NON-05815 | Date of Preparation April 2022


Mumma Kits – All Packed Up and Ready To Go!

September 2022

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Mumma Kits for vulnerable mums and babies in the UK

MSD for Mothers is MSD’s global initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die while giving life. Applying MSD’s business expertise, scientific expertise and financial resources, we are working across sectors to improve the health and well-being of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the months after.

Earlier this month our UK ambassadors helped to support this mission by packaging 40 mumma kits to be sent to vulnerable mums and babies in the UK via the White Ribbon Alliance, a charity driven by a vision and goal to ensure that pregnancy and childbirth are safe for all women.

Some of the items of baby care essentials in the kits including nappies, sanitary products and muslin cloths were donated by MSD in the UK employees, their friends and families through an internal donation appeal last autumn.

The kits were then assembled before being shipped to the White Ribbon Alliance, before being distributed to mothers and babies.

Last year MSD in the UK colleagues and their friends and families also knitted hundreds of items of baby clothing which were shipped to Africa.

MSD for Mothers UK Ambassador, Emma Prosser said: “The MSD for Mothers project means so much to all of us, knowing we are helping to make that difference somewhere in the world- (no matter how big or small), and the UK is no exception. The generosity and kindness of our colleagues and their friends and families here in the UK is what helps us all ensure we can continue with our work. We are delighted to have been able to donate these kits which will make such a positive impact on the lives of the mothers and babies in the UK who receive them.”

“As MSD for Mothers Ambassadors, we are always looking at new ways of how we can make a difference and ensure the work we do today continues to leave a positive legacy for tomorrow. We are all immensely proud to be part of this project which is helping to solve a global health challenge – which to date has supported 18.2 million women with healthier pregnancies and safer deliveries – and our work does not stop here.”

For more information about the programme visit: MSD for Mothers

GB-NON-05822 | Date of Preparation April 2022


Raising awareness of Lung Cancer symptoms

September 2022

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During 2020-21 MSD helped bring a message of lung cancer awareness to 45 million people working in partnership with 8 NHS Cancer Alliances and 5 national patient and professional organisations.

The campaign helped support an increase in referrals in some of the areas of country hardest hit by the pandemic and was built with the advice and local dissemination of local organisations working in those communities. The evaluation report for MSD’s ‘Do It For Yourself’ lung cancer campaign is now available.

To download a copy of the report click here:

A ‘campaign-in-a-box’ version of ‘Do It For Yourself’ with leaflets, posters, videos and the advertising formats of the campaign is now available and MSD is making the digital and printed materials available free of charge to NHS organisations and clinicians who want to raise lung cancer awareness in their local area.

To order materials free of charge, register at the MSD Oncology patient information website and open the Do It For Yourself campaign to see what is available:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a widespread impact on the healthcare system. One of these has been a dramatic downturn in the numbers of people who have stepped forward to have their symptoms of possible lung cancer checked and detected. In 2020, MSD set out to explore the behavioural drivers that might stop some people with symptoms of lung cancer coming forward to seek further health advice, at the same time as NHS and cancer organisations started seeing this alarming decline. It was this dynamic which led to this campaign.

Among the findings of the campaign evaluation report are:

  • Ways of working that helped NHS organisations to learn from each other and maintain the lung cancer community at a time of extreme stress to the healthcare system
  • How a coalition of public and private organisations can work effectively together on cancer awareness campaigning
  • Cases studies of how advertising and communications can be linked to local knowledge and community assets to improve targeting and impact of campaigns

MSD is grateful to its partners in producing this campaign.

  • Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance
  • Greater Manchester Cancer
  • Lancashire & South Cumbria Cancer Alliance
  • Northern Cancer Alliance
  • Peninsula Cancer Alliance
  • RM Partners Cancer Alliance
  • South East London Cancer Alliance
  • South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance
  • West Yorkshire & Harrogate Cancer Alliance       
  • Lung Cancer Nursing UK
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Mesothelioma UK          
  • Primary Care Respiratory Society
  • Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
  • UK Lung Cancer Coalition
  • Yorkshire Cancer Research

GB-NON-05765 | Date of Preparation March 2022

Our People

Equal & Fair Opportunity – Recognition for Early Talent Initiatives

September 2022

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At MSD we are proud of the early talent initiatives we have been driving and are delighted to have been recognised and shortlisted for the second year running for ‘Best Social Mobility Strategy Award’ in the UK National Graduate Recruitment awards by TARGETjobs.

As an organisation, social economic diversity is a key focus for us, which is why it is a core part of our organisation-wide 2022 People Strategy.  Our goal is to offer everyone a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential at MSD, irrespective of their background. 

In the context of student recruitment, we recognise that testing and access to opportunity can narrow candidate evaluation and selection and is heavily influenced by a student’s inherited social economic status; instead, we hire our students based on potential and from all walks of life, recognising that widening participation across our whole organisation brings new ideas and perspectives, allowing us to better understand and reflect the diversity and needs of the patients we aim to serve.

Through a wide range of strategies, many of them already firmly embedded, we are pushing the boundaries. The introduction of CV blinding, removal of all grade requirements, implementation of context recruitment tools via our partnership with UpReach, as well as our partnership with more inclusive universities are just some of our interventions. Last year we launched several new programmes and initiatives which included our inaugural UK apprenticeship programme with the aim to widen participation and support local talent who could not or chose not to attend university. From what we have seen so far, we are already making a difference, and there is always more we can do.  

We have been working hard – and will continue to do so – to ensure anyone who’s interested in joining us has an equal and fair opportunity.

To find out more about Early Talent careers at MSD in the UK, click here.

GB-NON-05762 | Date of Preparation March 2022


MSD & the fight against Hepatitis C

September 2022

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How we are partnering with the NHS to deliver hepatitis C elimination

If you are wondering how a pharmaceutical company like MSD is involved in a world leading initiative to find, test and treat people at risk of hepatitis C, then read on…

MSD is so proud to be part of the NHS Elimination programme which is a first of its kind programme,  involving a close collaboration between NHS England and Improvement, the Hepatitis C Trust, Operational Delivery Networks (ODNs), the pharmaceutical industry (Abbvie, Gilead and MSD), Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSE) and Public Health England (PHE).

Chronic hepatits C infection, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), is thought to affect over 80,000 people in England.1 Symptoms can take years to develop and as a result, many people don’t know they have been infected.1 If left untreated, HCV can lead to serious health problems including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC).1 This not only places a heavy burden on the individual, but on the NHS and the economy. 2,3

In 2016, the UK Government signed up to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on Viral Hepatitis which commits participating countries to the elimination of (HCV) as a major public health threat by 2030.1 NHSEngland is working to surpass the WHO target through a number of initiatives including a unique and innovative partnership1 – The Hepatitis C Elimination Programme.

In this unique programme, a series of ‘elimination initiatives’ are being provided by the NHS and industry, which aim to identify potential patients, test for infection and offer treatment to everyone who needs it. Working with 24 Operational Delivery networks, which were set up across England help manage hepatitis C services at a local level, MSD is supporting elimination through four elimination initiatives:

Point of Care Testing (POCT): In partnership with Cepheid, we are rolling out Cepheid rapid HCV RNA testing equipment to prisons, community projects and outreach services. Delivering rapid finger-prick testing that delivers results in 1 hour.

Patient Search Identification (PSI): A case-finding tool which searches for coded HCV risk factors in patient records in primary care settings to identify potentially at-risk patients that should be reviewed and, if appropriate, tested.

Peer-to-Peer Support (P2P): Through partnership with the Hepatitis C Trust (THCT), we are providing a network of peer volunteers with lived experience of HCV to provide education, encouragement and support directly to patients throughout the treatment and care journey. Through this partnership with THCT we are also working to develop a model that is built within and led by the local community, to reach south Asian communities who, whilst having a higher prevalence of HCV infection than the general population, have often been excluded from receiving culturally relevant information and interventions. 

Community Liaison Officers (CLO): Community Liaison Officers work with the operational delivery network clinical teams to align and coordinate hepatitis C services and provide outreach to patients attending clinics, as well as working in homeless hostels, night shelters and drug treatment centres.

To speak to a member of the team, please contact Elimination Programme Lead, Kuldip Sembhi at:  

1 UKHSA Hepatitis C in England 2022 Report: Working to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health problem Available at: Last Accessed: March 2022

2 Singh J, Longworth L, Estimating The Cost Of Liver Transplantation In Patients Diagnosed With Chronic Hepatitis C And B In The UK, 2014. Available online via:  Last accessed November 2019

3 Wright M, Grieve R, Roberts J, Main J, Thomas HC, Alexander G, et al., Health benefits of antiviral therapy for mild chronic hepatitis C: Randomized controlled trial and economic evaluation.  Health Technology Assessment.  2006:10

GB-NON-05665 | Date of Preparation March 2022