Alberta's health minister says he won't cut off funding to study a controversial multiple sclerosis treatment despite a recent report casting doubt on the vein therapy.

The province has already  committed $1 million to study   the MS therapy, and Gene Zwozdesky said that wouldn't change.


Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said the $1 million committed to the study of a controversial MS therapy is still there, despite a U.S. study casting doubt on the basis of treatment. (CBC)

"I don't think that we should ever take away hope that there might be something new out there that works," said Zwozdesky. "It's just that we have to be abundantly careful that as part of our research and part of our work, that safety, ethics, and efficacy have been addressed."

Findings from a University of Buffalo study, written by Dr. Robert Zivadinov, were published Wednesday in the journal Neurology. They suggest that people with multiple sclerosis may show blocked neck veins as a result of the disease rather than as a cause.

The vein therapy was pioneered by Dr. Paolo Zamboni, whose research suggests that MS stems from iron build-up due to constricted blood flow out of the brain.

The treatment involves having balloons inflated inside the neck and chest veins to improve blood flow.

Just one of many investigations, says proponent

The co-chair of a provincial MS committee said the University of Buffalo study should not be seen as a setback.

Former Alberta MLA Judy Gordon — who has MS and is a proponent of the therapy — said the new U.S. study is just one of many investigations into the treatment.

"I think it needs to just be taken as another piece of information and everyone needs to continue to work through it," said Gordon, who has not received the treatment. "I did hear a couple of days ago that in Canada now there have been 12,000 individuals that have gone out of country for this procedure."

Some advocates are calling on the Alberta government to help pay for those who go to other countries for the surgery.

Zwozdesky said the three-year Alberta observational study has already begun, but doesn't know when it will be completed.

It could lead to clinical trials in the future.