WINNIPEG — There will be no Manitoba-sponsored clinical trials into a new treatment for multiple sclerosis, but Health Minister Theresa Oswald says MS sufferers should not despair.
The province is close to negotiating an arrangement with a Canadian group that would include Manitobans in a national study into the efficacy of the liberation treatment for MS, Oswald said Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the Manitoba Health Research Council revealed that it had received only one application to conduct clinical trials for the new procedure and had found it wanting.
A review committee examined the proposal and, “based on the criteria that had been established, had just deemed that it was not good enough to go forward,” said MHRC executive director Christina Weise.
The research council recommended that Manitoba partner instead with MS clinical trials being organized by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Oswald said discussions with that group are already well underway.
“I’m extremely optimistic that we’re going to be able to find a way for Manitobans to become part of the clinical study here in Canada,” Oswald said from Halifax, where she was attending a meeting of provincial and territorial health ministers.
Eighteen months ago, after considerable pressure from MS sufferers, Premier Greg Selinger committed $5 million for Manitoba-sponsored clinical trials to determine the worthiness of liberation treatment, which is unavailable in Canada.
The treatment involves unblocking neck veins to normalize blood flow. Some Canadian MS sufferers have travelled as far away as Europe, India and Egypt for the procedure.
The treatment was developed by Italian researcher Paolo Zamboni in 2008. He coined the term CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) to describe the problems with blood flow in neck veins. He believed that it played a role in causing MS. His liberation therapy involves inserting stents in certain veins to improve blood flow.
Sharlene Garlinski, a proponent of the procedure, said she was disappointed that the Manitoba-sponsored clinical trials are not proceeding. She also expressed skepticism about the national trials Oswald is touting, believing that its organizers have a bias against liberation therapy.
Garlinski, an MS sufferer, received the liberation treatment in Costa Rica two years ago. She said it has worked wonders. She is now on the board of CCSVI Winnipeg, a local chapter of a national organization that is pushing for Canadian adoption of the CCSVI procedure. The local group claims 500 members.
Garlinski would have preferred that Manitoba hook up with a U.S. research team, much like Saskatchewan has. Eighty-six Saskatchewanians are participating in a two-year CCSVI clinical trial at the Albany Medical Center in New York state. Manitoba could have linked up with a California research team doing similar work, Garlinski said.
Meanwhile, Oswald said the province’s $5 million commitment towards MS research is still on the table. In addition to a national CCSVI study, she said Manitoba is keenly interested in preliminary but “highly promising” research into stem cell therapy for MS.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2012