Despite new concerns about so-called liberation therapy for multiple sclerosis, the Saskatchewan government still plans to pay for clinical trials if it gets a proposal from researchers, Health Minister Don McMorris says.
McMorris was reacting Tuesday to statements earlier in the day from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the MS Society of Canada about the controversial therapy, which involves using angioplasty to open up closed neck veins.
A CIHR spokesman said a group of international experts they brought together unanimously recommended against supporting a clinical trial in Canada now, saying there was a lack of scientific evidence the procedure was safe or effective.
On Wednesday, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she accepted the report of the expert panel and that the Canadian government will not fund a clinical trial of the liberation therapy for MS at this time.
Earlier in the summer, the Saskatchewan government said it would support clinic trials to see if the procedure works.
Premier Brad Wall noted at the time that Saskatchewan tends to have higher rates of MS — a disease that affects different parts of the body and can cause severe physical impairment — than other parts of Canada.
Currently, medicare doesn't pay for MS patients to get the treatment in Canada.
Many patients, including some from Saskatchewan, are flying to Europe or elsewhere in the world to pay for the procedure out of their own pockets.
McMorris said Tuesday the provincial government hasn't changed its position on possible clinical trials.
"We want to move forward with clinical trials if there are researchers that would like to do it," he said. "I've talked to the deputy minister of health who has talked to the researchers here in Saskatchewan. They're still working on a clinical trial proposal — diagnostics and then perhaps clinical trials into the future. We in the province will fund a proposal like that once it comes forward."
McMorris said that does not mean the government will pay for the procedure for anyone who wants it. However, clinical trials may be able to prove one way or another whether the liberation procedure works, he said.