MS liberation therapy fund should end, Parrott says
Independent MLA and retired N.B. surgeon says treatment proven 'ineffective'
Independent MLA and retired surgeon Jim Parrott is calling on the provincial government to stop spending taxpayers' money on a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis.
The Alward government set up a fund in 2010 to match up to $2,500 in community donations for patients who want to travel outside of New Brunswick to get the so-called liberation therapy.
But Parrott says the treatment, which involves opening up narrow neck veins, has since been proven "ineffective" and the fund, which has a budget of $75,000 this year, should now be rescinded.
"It should have been evaluated with much more intensity, the value of the procedure," he said.
A recent University of Buffalo study found liberation therapy did not improve symptoms — and actually made a few patients worse.
May be time to reconsider
Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said earlier this month the fund, which falls under his department, was a campaign promise, but he planned to seek advice from doctors on the issue.
Health Minister Ted Flemming agrees it may be time to reconsider the fund.
"Perhaps three-and-a-half years ago there was some idea that yeah, it did work. Perhaps three-and-a-half years later, if there's now no clinical evidence that it does work, then you change," Flemming said.
Liberation therapy can cost more than $10,000.
The treatment is based on a hypothesis by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni who claimed that MS might be linked to narrowed veins and that removing the blockages could relieve symptoms.
New Brunswick is the only province that provides funds to help MS patients get the treatment.