The New Brunswick government says it will still help multiple sclerosis patients gain access to therapy to open narrowed neck veins, even though a new report on the procedure is raising concerns.
A University of Buffalo study released this week has cast doubt on narrowed neck veins being the primary cause of multiple sclerosis, and in turn, whether the treatment actually benefits patients with MS.
New Brunswick Health Minister Madeleine Dube said that could be debated in the medical community for some time.
"But while this is being researched and debated, those people still need support and we are committed to that," she said Thursday.
Dube said patients are looking for relief and the province's Tory government will follow through on its promise during last year's provincial election campaign to provide the service.
It was part of our budget, it was part of our platform and this year there will be some support for MS people," she said. Dube said details of the program and funding will come soon when she delivers her department's budget estimates in the legislature.
The liberation procedure is not performed in Canada, but studies are being done to determine if clinical trials are warranted. A number of provinces have announced support for clinical trials, while Newfoundland and Labrador will spend $320,000 for an observational study of patients who have sought the treatment in another country.
Only New Brunswick has announced it will provide funding to help people get the treatment.
Money well spent: patient
Donna Stroiazzo received the treatment in Bulgaria in January. Having struggled with paralysis from the disease since her twenties, she needed a walker or a cane to get around.
After undergoing the controversial procedure, Stroiazzo said the first thing she did was go walking without those aides.
"I don't care if it's connected to MS or not. All I know is how I'm feeling. And yes, I don't know how long it will last, because yes, we do need the research, but I know that the blueness is gone, the spasticity is gone, the energy ... just having back that energy," said Stroiazzo. Stroiazzo said she'll be paying for the $12,000 procedure for a long time, but she has no doubt that for her, it was money well spent.
The MS Society of Canada has advised patients to take a cautious approach. It has said anyone who is going to take part in an experimental treatment should consider doing that in the confines of a clinical trial setting where there are safeguards in place.
The University of Buffalo study looked at 289 MS patients and 163 healthy people. The vein abnormality CCSVI showed up in 56 per cent of MS patients, but it also presented in 22 per cent of healthy people who had no symptoms at all.
Study author Robert Zivadinov said while the main message of the paper is that CCSVI is probably not a cause of MS, the disease may cause blocked veins.