Saskatchewan still plans to fund trials for controversial multiple sclerosis treatment
By Tim Switzer, Leader-Post
During a joint news conference with the MS Society of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, CIHR president Alain Beaudet said the organization will not recommend to the federal government that Canadawide clinical trials for the MS liberation treatment take place because of a lack of evidence to support its effectiveness.
"Given lack of scientific basis, it is not scientifically advisable or ethically acceptable to conduct clinical trials at this time," said Beaudet. He said the decision to hold off on trials until more evidence is found was unanimous among everyone who took part in a meeting between the CIHR and MS Society, including internationally recognized researchers and scientists of MS.
Last month, the Saskatchewan government announced it wants to fund clinical trials in this province and Tuesday's news did not change that plan.
Saskatchewan has the highest rate of MS in Canada.
The controversial procedure was proposed by Italian vascular surgeon Paolo Zamboni last year and is commonly referred to as the "liberation treatment." It involves inflating the veins in a patient's neck with a balloon angioplasty to help blood flow from the brain to the heart.
Canadians, who cannot get the procedure in Canada, are travelling to countries such as Bulgaria, Poland and India and are returning with anecdotal reports of immediate results, such as restored warmth to their feet and hands, improved vision and decreased fatigue.
However, the scientists and researchers at Tuesday's news conference said the results of Zamboni's research are questionable.
Rubin explained that during the trials in Italy, Zamboni should have given a control group of MS patients what is known as a "sham procedure" — meaning a fake treatment — so researchers can compare these patients with the ones who were given the real thing.
"There is a high incidence of placebo effect in patients that are treated for MS," Rubin said.
Moreover, he said that there is no group in the world that has validated the protocol Zamboni used in his trials.
— with files from Postmedia News