Saskatchewan selects 1st person for MS trials

A Saskatoon man with multiple sclerosis will be the first person sent by the province to the United States to see if he can participate in neck vein therapy clinical trials.

A Saskatoon man with multiple sclerosis will be the first person sent by the province to the United States to see if he can participate in neck vein therapy clinical trials.

Andrew Dahlen will fly to Albany, N.Y., Monday for a final assessment in order to join a two-year study of the so-called liberation therapy for MS.

The therapy involves using tiny balloons, surgically inserted, to open up constricted veins.

MS is a neurological disease that can seriously affect mobility, vision, speech and bladder function. 

Hundreds of people from Canada have gone to the U.S. or overseas for the treatment, and many say it has given them relief from their symptoms.

However, neck vein therapy is controversial, with a number of medical experts saying it doesn't work, or that the relief it provides is temporary or can be explained by the placebo effect.

No Canadian province pays for the procedure, which costs thousands of dollars per treatment, so people who leave the country for it must pay out of their own pockets.

Saskatchewan doesn't pay for the procedure either, but it has set aside $2.2 million to have 86 Saskatchewan patients participate in the Albany trials.

Half of the participants will receive the procedure, while the other half will receive a "placebo" operation.

Dahlen, a 28-year-old Saskatoon cook who was diagnosed with MS six years ago, said he's excited to be part of the Saskatchewan effort. He will have to go through a final assessment before he can undergo the procedure, and even then, may not be in the group that receives the real treatment.

After the Albany treatments are complete, a Saskatchewan neurologist will work with the U.S. team with assessments, referrals and ongoing monitoring of Saskatchewan participants, the province says.