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MS society sets aside funding for clinical trials of controversial procedure

Dr. Zamboni's research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.

Alessandro Vincenzi/alessandro vincenzi The Globe and Mail

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is setting aside $1-million for a pan-Canadian therapeutic clinical trial of a controversial new treatment called liberation therapy which would begin if research studies currently being funded by the society find that the procedure shows promise.

"We want to hit the ground running when a therapeutic trial is warranted and approved," Yves Savoie, president and CEO of the MS Society, said in a statement released Thursday. "Ensuring funds are available to support a Canadian trial will accelerate our ability to get definitive answers to the questions people touched by MS urgently seek."

The society said it also hopes to secure funding from the provinces and the federal government for the clinical trial that is being demanded by MS patients who are pinning their hopes on the therapy developed by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni.

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Many Canadian researchers and the doctors who treat MS patients are skeptical that the treatment works and that the science behind it is sound. The therapy challenges the conventional wisdom that MS is an auto-immune disorder and proposes that it is instead caused by a blockage in the flow of blood from the brain.

The MS Society of Canada and its partner agency in the United States have committed $2.4-million to support seven research projects focusing on liberation therapy and its relationship to MS. The federal government has accepted the advice of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that clinical trials should not begin until the preliminary results of those studies are known - possibly within a few months.

The MS Society and the government have taken heat from patients who are angry that they must pay thousands of dollars to obtain the treatment overseas because it is currently not permitted in Canada.

"The MS Society is committed to doing all that it can to ensure that an eventual trial will be rigorously designed and successfully implemented," said Mr. Savoie. "We will continue to expedite the research process so that the treatment potential of CCSVI as it relates to MS can be understood as quickly as possible."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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