Friday, August 27, 2010

Canadian health ministers discuss MS treatment trials

From The Vancouver Sun in Canada:

REGINA, Canada — An upcoming meeting of the country's health ministers should help shed light on which provinces might be willing to fund clinical trials of an unproven treatment for multiple sclerosis, says Saskatchewan Health Minister Don McMorris.

"I think there will be some clarity. Whether we'll all be on the same page may be a different story," said McMorris, who will go to St. John's, N.L., for the gathering next month.

After initially standing mostly alone in its pledge to finance trials of the so-called liberation procedure, the Saskatchewan Party government is now seeing interest from other provinces.

The latest is Newfoundland and Labrador, which this week indicated it would consider putting funds into a clinical trial to test the procedure — a turnabout from earlier this month when, at a meeting of the country's premiers, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was offered only moral support.

Newfoundland Health Minister Jerome Kennedy told CBC his province, "is willing to engage in national clinical trials and we're willing to provide our fair share of the money for these trials to proceed."

The Yukon had been the only jurisdiction at the premiers' meeting to express a possible willingness to participate in trials of the liberation treatment, which is based on the theory that MS is linked to narrowed or blocked veins in the neck.

"I think it's good," said McMorris of what appears to be a change in attitude from Newfoundland and also Manitoba, which last week called for nationwide clinical trials of the controversial treatment.

"We may hear from (researchers) that they would like to partner with other provinces to have a bigger trial sampling and that's perfectly fine with us.

"We've started the discussion. We'll let the experts take it from there."

However, he said he thinks it would be difficult to get to Manitoba's vision of a pan-Canadian approach.

Saskatchewan is also willing to move forward alone.

Last Friday, Nova Scotia threw its support behind the proposed clinical trials and last week Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc said his government is considering answering the call for the pan-Canadian study.

Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz has indicated he was open to adding the treatment to the list of provincially insured services.

McMorris said there has been a deluge of calls from the public in the wake of the province's stated willingness to fund trials of the procedure.

Similar calls from MS patients to their governments in other provinces are likely prompting a lot of closed-door discussions, he said.

Medical experts express caution, noting more work into the theory needs to be done. However, some Canadian patients continue to spend thousands of dollars to try to get the angioplasty procedure done overseas in countries that offer it to paying customers.