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Liberal leader wants province to fund MS treatment study

Gene Still
(Photo by Bob Gyoerick)   Liberal leader Jon Gerrard speaks with Mona Brown during his visit to the Carman-area as part of the leader's recent summer provincial tour.

(Photo by Bob Gyoerick) Liberal leader Jon Gerrard speaks with Mona Brown during his visit to the Carman-area as part of the leader's recent summer provincial tour.

Manitoba Liberal leader Jon Gerrard wants the province to fund research into the controversial liberation treatment for MS.

Gerrard made the comments during a stopover in Carman as part of a recent summer provincial tour by the leader.

He was responding to the announcement by federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq that Canada won't back a federal clinical trial to study the liberation treatment developed by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni, a former vascular surgeon and professor at the University of Ferrara in northern Italy.

Federal Minister Won't Move To Trial

Aglukkaq said she accepted the recommendations made by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) not to move to a trial yet.

"Based on the current evidence, we cannot risk the health of MS patients" on a trial, she said.

On August 31, the federal health research agency said there isn't enough evidence right now to support a clinical trial for the treatment for multiple sclerosis. CIHR reached this conclusion after a meeting late last month with internationally recognized experts.

CIHR recommended to Aglukkaq the government set up an expert group to look at seven studies sponsored by the MS society looking at the link between MS and CCSVI, the name given by Zamboni for the vein disorder Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency.

Blocked Veins

The blocked veins in the neck are opened up as part of the liberation treatment with a balloon to improve blood flow in veins that flush blood from the brain.

Gerrard said, during a Sept. 1 visit to Carman, that he wants the province to take a leadership role and join its counterparts like Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia that intend to provide some money for further research.

"I respect the national decision but I cannot accept that this province will not fund clinical trials," he said. "If you know of a new therapy that shows promise then we should be doing clinical trials."

He compared it to the discovery that ulcers - like peptic ulcers -often originate from an infection.

"It's like 30 years ago if you told doctors that ulcers were caused by a bacteria, many would have scoffed at that suggestion," Gerrard said.

Meanwhile, Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald had asked for support from other Canadian leaders to launch a nationwide randomized clinical trial to test the treatment.

Oswald's said patients with multiple sclerosis have been waiting too long for a treatment breakthrough and that it's time that we work together to try and find scientifically sound answers as to whether this procedure is effective.

Many MS patients from Canada have travelled to other countries like Italy, Poland and Bulgaria and paid to receive the treatment.

(with files from the Winnipeg Sun)