News Manitoba

Health minister wants research into MS treatment

Paul Turenne, QMI Agency

Manitoba's Health Minister is suggesting that her colleagues across the country get together to co-ordinate clinical trials for a controversial multiple sclerosis procedure which many consider "the great hope" for MS sufferers.

Clinical Trial

Health Minister Theresa Oswald sent a letter Monday to her counterparts across Canada, seeking support for a "pan-Canadian" randomized clinical trial to test the effectiveness of a new procedure to treat a condition known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, which some doctors suggest assists the progression of MS.

Patients can be treated using an angioplasty, or repair of blood vessels, which some say aids in the fight against MS.

Requesting Debate

Others disagree, and Oswald said she will first ask the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to consider debating the issue at its conference of top scientists next week to determine whether a large-scale national clinical trial is advisable or even safe.

"MS patients are clinging to this being their great hope," she said. "The experts have differing points of view. There are some who think we shouldn't be wasting any time at all on this, and others who think we should have gotten on board yesterday."

Last month Saskatchewan became the first province to announce it will publicly fund clinical trials of the procedure.

However, Oswald is asking her colleagues to co-ordinate their efforts rather than conducting "patchwork" province-by-province trials, which she suggested might rely on smaller sample sizes and could lead to conflicting results, which would leave the debate no further ahead.

Oswald suggested each province, and the federal government, could chip in to fund a study.

She asked colleagues to put the issue on the agenda for next month's health ministers' meeting in Newfoundland.