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Newfoundland and Labrador will fund trials for controversial MS treatment

Dr. Paolo Zamboni

An announcement was made Monday by Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Jerome Kennedy that his province would begin clinical trials of a controversial new therapy for multiple sclerosis called liberation treatment.

"We'll be providing funding to commence trials in this province. It will be led by two neurologists at the MS clinic in St. John's and it'll be a province-wide study," Kennedy said during the annual meeting of Canada's provincial and territorial health ministers.

The government said that up to $320, 000 will be spent on the study, with more money pledged if required.

Liberation treatment has been pioneered by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni who argues that MS is a vascular disorder caused by vein blockages. Zamboni believes that the disorder is the result of a build-up of iron, which he says can be treated with angioplasty. Up to this point, MS has been considered an auto-immune disease.

Critics of Zamboni point out that his theory is not based on evidence and could create greater problems for those who undergo treatment. Last month a report released by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the MS Society of Canada stated that "there is little support for the notion that ‘venous insufficiency’ for the brain or spinal cord contributes to the development of MS.”

However, MS patients who have received the treatment say that they experienced rapid relief of symptoms, including immobility, pain and fatigue. Currently, only a small number of countries perform the procedure.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research report recommended that the government wait until current research was completed before beginning clinicial trials. Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq accepted the recommendation, which means that provinces can decide independently or act in co-operation with each other to initiate clinicial trials.

Saskatchewan, which has one of the highest MS rates in Canada, has already committed to funding provincial trials. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, Quebec, Manitoba, and the Yukon have all expressed support for a federal program. 

The BC-NDP have called on the provincial government to add BC's voice to the list of provinces asking Minister Aglukkaq to give the green light on national liberation therapy trials. NDP health critic Adrian Dix told The Vancouver Sun that he had spoken to British Colombians who had undergone the treatment with successful results.

“When these patients return, they’re going to continue to be treated by doctors here and so the more we know and the more we understand about it, the better off we’ll be,” Dix said.

BC Health Minister Kevin Falcon was not avaliable for comment.

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