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St. John's advocate quits role with MS Society

01/09/2010 14:02


MS therapy trial has N.L. minister's support

St. John's advocate quits role with MS Society

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 | 1:16 PM NT Comments51Recommend27

Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister says he still wants to fund clinical trials for a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis patients, despite a rejection by medical experts.

Jerome Kennedy told CBC News he does not understand why the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the MS Society of Canada announced a recommendation Tuesday that there is no medical evidence to support clinical trials of so-called liberation therapy.

Also known as Zamboni treatment — named after the Italian vascular surgeon who developed it — the treatment involves using angioplasty to widen veins so that blood will properly drain from the brain.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research said a panel of international experts it assembled had unanimously recommended against support for clinical trials, at least for now. Alain Beaudet, the president of the agency, cited "an overwhelming lack of scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of the procedure, or even that there is any link between blocked veins and MS."

Kennedy, who in late August announced the Newfoundland and Labrador government is prepared to help pay for clinical trials for liberation treatment, is not persuaded.

"I'm sort of confused by the message from the CIHR in that we have this, what appears to me to be very strong anecdotal evidence that this is working," Kennedy told CBC News.

"So I'm very interested in hearing what my provincial counterparts have to say."

Kennedy said he will raise the matter with other provincial and territorial health ministers at a meeting in St. John's next month.

"If the other provinces are willing to fund national clinical trials then I'm certainly willing as a province to pay our fair share," Kennedy said.

Chapter head quits in protest

Meanwhile, a local activist who helped persuade Kennedy to support automatic clinical trials has decided to quit his leadership role within the MS Society of Canada.

Ted Warren, who led the society's St. John's-Mount Pearl chapter, said he expects others to split with the group over its opposition to starting clinical trials.

"I think it's unforgivable," Warren said Wednesday.

He stepped down "in protest as soon as I got the news yesterday [about] the position that the MS Society has taken."

Scientists said this week that Zamboni's research is questionable because it was not blinded, meaning that it did not follow a methodology to remove the possibility of researcher bias.

CIHR, which funds health research in Canada, is recommending the federal government pursue a more thorough investigative route before it considers clinical trials for liberation therapy.

As a start, it would have experts monitor and analyze international work on the technique.

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