Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he will raise his proposal to fund clinical trials of a controversial multiple sclerosis treatment with other premiers next week.
The MS treatment isn't on the formal agenda for next week's Council of the Federation meeting, Wall said Wednesday in Saskatoon, "but I will be raising it with premiers."
On Tuesday, Wall said Saskatchewan is willing to fund trials of the promising but unproven treatment for MS, known as liberation therapy. The province has perhaps the highest rates of MS, he said, but the treatment offers them hope.
The treatment is based on thinking MS is a vascular disorder that can be treated by opening constricted veins in the neck and chest.
Canadians with multiple sclerosis have gone to countries such as Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria to seek the treatment, which is not available in Canada.
"There may be provinces that wish to join with Saskatchewan," Wall said. "We would welcome that. I think the broader scale approach is better, both to advance the clinical trials themselves, and maybe if there is reason to move beyond that together. But in the meantime, we're prepared to do the work here in Saskatchewan."
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the surgery seems to offer some promise but he'd like to see more than anecdotal evidence supporting the procedure.
"It's just early days yet," McGuinty said. "Its very interesting. Our responsibility now is to make sure that it, in fact, is something that we should be supporting."
Nova Scotia Democrat MLA Leonard Preyra, speaking on behalf of Premier Darrell Dexter, also said that province is not interested in funding a clinical trial.
In a statement, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada said: "We are hopeful that additional research approaches to this important issue will allow us to advance the speed of research and allow scientists to discover the definitive answers to the questions relating to CCSVI at an even faster pace."
David Molyneux, 23, of Toronto, spent tens of thousands of dollars to have the procedure done in Bulgaria last month.
"I played golf Saturday and Sunday this weekend and came home, and I didn't go right to bed. I was able to stay up," Molyneux said. "So, right there, that's definitely a positive, my energy level."
Don't base policy on hope: CMAJ editor
Dr. Paul Hébert, a critical-care physician in Ottawa and editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, has said that manipulating veins can be dangerous, and there is no established link between venous blockages and MS.
In an editorial last month, Hébert and his co-authors noted MS is difficult to study because the symptoms are so subjective and its natural history follows a waxing and waning course.
Many patients understand this, the editorial said, but nevertheless insist on having the treatment, known as venous angioplasty, offered to them out of fear of loss of function.
"But good health policy decisions should not be based on hope and desperation," the editorial writers said, adding that on the other hand, scientists and skeptics should avoid dismissing new ideas prematurely.
Wall said his understanding is the province is a long way from receiving a specific proposal for a clinical trial. When the trial is ready to recruit patients, researchers will assess which subjects are eligible to participate, he said.