Drugmaker enlists Fitbit to better understand patients

Biogen Idec is using fitness trackers, like Fitbit, to gather data on multiple sclerosis sufferers, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. The drugmaker developed and markets Tecfidera, a blockbuster MS drug approved by the FDA in March 2013, along with four other MS products: Avonex, Tysabri, Plegridy and Fampyra.

Biogen gave away 250 Fitbits to US MS patients last spring to help determine the speed at which patients walk, the magazine writes. That data could assist in mapping out the disease's progression by monitoring and analyzing the speed and duration patents walk each day, according to a Biogen spokesperson.

Those measured steps could serve another purpose: aiding Biogen in creating a value proposition to convince insurers and PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers) to add the firm's pricey products to their drug formularies.

Doling out wearables is not the only way Biogen is seeking to become more patient-centric. Earlier this month, author Jennifer Richardson, who lives with MS, detailed her experiences when invited to a dinner thrown by the drugmaker.