The federal government's decision to hold clinical trials for an experimental multiple sclerosis treatment is getting a mixed reaction.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced on Wednesday that Ottawa will launch early stage clinical trials into using angioplasty to unblock veins in those with MS.
"Great news, it's unexpected," Dion Oxford of Toronto said Thursday. Oxford travelled to a clinic in Costa Rica last summer for the treatment, which he considered "a partial success."
Members of the MS community have been lobbying the federal government to proceed with clinical trials.
"I'm almost sure it's to do with the voice of the people," Oxford said of the change in the government's position.
"I think that the government is listening. I also wonder if it's a dollars and cents thing because it's going to be perhaps a little cheaper to treat people this way than with the billion-dollar drug industry that's at play here," he told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.
Oxford said his issues with fatigue, balance and energy have improved, but he still struggles to walk and continues to have numbness in his hands and feet.
Wednesday's announcement followed the decision of a multiple sclerosis scientific working group — appointed by the federal government — whose members agreed unanimously that a preliminary clinical trial into the vein procedure should go ahead.
The federal government and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), which sponsored the scientific review, did not give any details about how the trials will be conducted, the cost, how patients will be chosen, or what data went into the decision.
"The committee felt that, on the basis of this preliminary evidence and what's published so far, that we should in parallel start already with a Phase 1-2 trial," said CIHR president Dr. Alain Beaudet.
It's hoped that the early trials on small groups will start early in 2012 and it will be at least a year before any results are known.
The panel has been monitoring and reviewing evidence on Paolo Zamboni's theory that there is an association between MS and vein blockages, a condition known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI ). The Italian doctor spearheaded a movement to use angioplasty to open veins of MS patients.
Federal politicians caved to the outcry from Canadians patients clamouring for access to the procedure, said Jock Murray, a retired doctor who helped found the Dalhousie MS Research Unit in Halifax
"The next group that think they have the latest cancer therapy or the treatment of ADHD or autism or AIDS are going to say that the way to do this is not through the usual medical and scientific approach, it's to put pressure on politicians," Murray said.