tp-edm-zamboni-study

Dr. Tom Feasby of the University of Calgary speaks to reporters Thursday as Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky looks on. ((CBC))

The Alberta government says it will spend up to $1 million to study controversial vein-opening therapy for multiple sclerosis.

The province also committed itself Thursday to fund clinical trials if advised by researchers.

"This study is a response to the remarkable interest amongst MS patients in the new MS treatment proposed by Dr. Zamboni," said Dr. Tom Feasby, dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary.

"It will help us understand the experiences of MS patients having this intervention, including any complications."

P.O.V.:

Would you like to see experimental MS trials funded in your province? Take our survey.

The treatment is based on research by Italian physician Paolo Zamboni that suggests MS, a baffling nerve-wrecking disorder, stems from iron buildup due to constricted blood flow out of the brain.

The vein procedure is not approved in Canada, but hundreds of Canadians have travelled around the world paying $10,000 to $15,000 to have balloons inflated inside their neck and chest veins to improve blood flow.

Success rate debated

The treatment, often called "liberation therapy" by its supporters, can alleviate symptoms of MS in some patients, though there is debate over how long the benefit lasts.

"Our government is committed to help build the body of evidence that will provide a clear indication, one way or the other, about the safety and effectiveness of this new treatment," said Health minister Gene Zwozdesky. "This study is an important step in that process." 

Researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta will lead the study, which will look at the procedure's safety and success rate.

The information will be used to determine whether to move forward with future clinical trials and what followup care patients will require.

A three-year observational study will begin in spring 2011. Albertans who have received the treatment or are scheduled to receive it will be eligible to participate.      

A website and database will be developed in which Albertans can volunteer and consent to take part and report on treatment they have received.  

Saskatchewan announced earlier this year it will pay for clinical trials of the procedure.