Premiers to debate MS treatment

A contentious experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis is likely to be discussed at a meeting of Canada's premiers this week, according to P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz.

Leaders differ on approach to 'liberation therapy'

An experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis will be discussed at a meeting of Canada's premiers this week, P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz said.

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz said he has heard Islanders' calls to investigate an experimental treatment for MS. ((CP PHOTO/Andrew Vaughan) Canada)

Ghiz said he was open to considering adding so-called liberation therapy to the list of insured provincial health services.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter rejected calls for changes in the near future.

Canada's 13 provincial and territorial premiers are scheduled to meet in Winnipeg starting Thursday to discuss Canada's economic recovery, as well as water issues and health care.

The MS treatment is based research by Italian physician Paolo Zamboni that suggests iron buildup in the brain, due to blocked veins in the neck or spinal cord, might be to blame for the condition.

Some Canadian MS patients have travelled out of the country to pay for treatments that clear blockages in their veins.

Clinics in Poland, Bulgaria and India are opening blockages for patients who have flocked from Canada and other countries in the last few months.

Brad Wall, Saskatchewan's premier, has said his province will pay for clinical trials. He hopes to convince other premiers to do the same at the premiers meeting.

Online petition

Ghiz said he has heard requests and concerns on the issue from a number of Islanders, including an eastern P.E.I. man who started an online petition last week calling for coverage.

"There has been some individual lobbying here in the province of Prince Edward Island, so this is something that I'm going to be talking to Premier Wall about and see where he is," Ghiz said.

"I think we have to work with the federal government when it comes to these clinical trials and getting them done as soon as possible."

But Dexter repeated his position that Nova Scotia will not fund trials of the proposed therapy for MS because it is unproven.

He said that because Saskatchewan has announced it will carry out trials, Nova Scotia doesn't have to repeat the work.

The provincial government will not financially support Nova Scotians who travel abroad to get the treatment, either.

"You could imagine what would happen if you were to make a decision to support something that is not an approved procedure and then something would go wrong, and of course people would come to you and ask why you made that decision," he said.

"So, I think the prudent thing for us to do, of course, is to rely on the best possible medical evidence and to make sure that our decisions are made on the basis of the best evidence."

Dexter said Nova Scotia will decide what to do about the treatment once the trials in Saskatchewan are complete.

The causes of multiple sclerosis, a nerve-wrecking condition results in painful spasms and loss of muscle control, are poorly understood. Current theories point to genetics, immune system problems and viral infections.