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Your question for Ignatieff: Yes, Liberals would fund MS treatment

A Liberal government would launch federally-funded clinical trials of a controversial new treatment for multiple sclerosis, Michael Ignatieff said Thursday in his year-end interview with The Globe and Mail.

In the hours leading up to that interview, The Globe asked readers through its Twitter account and Facebook site to submit questions for the Liberal Leader, one of which we promised to ask him.

The chosen question came from Amy Gaylord-Preston, who wanted to know "where he stands on treating MS patients for CCSVI. Would he insist that we be allowed treatment for blocked blood flow from our brains now? In our own country?"

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CCSVI stands for chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency. The unproven theory holds that narrow veins leading from the brain constrict blood flow from the brain, leading to the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The treatment, devised by Italian researcher Paolo Zamboni, consists of improving the blood flow, which in some cases has led to dramatic improvements.

But the Zamboni treatment – which some neurologists criticize as unproven and risky– is not authorized in Canada. While the government of Saskatchewan has decided to fund clinical trials, the federal Conservative government has tried to stay out of the debate.

But Ottawa should actually be taking the lead, Mr. Ignatieff insisted.

"The question is: why can't Canadians get a shot at getting at something that might have a therapeutic benefit?" he asked. "We say yes to that. Let's get these trial thoroughly conducted. The federal government should take leadership here."

Most of the interview concentrated on Mr. Ignatieff's lagging popularity and on whether there are any circumstances in which the Liberals might support the Conservative budget expected in February or March. He said there is virtually no possibility of the Liberals supporting the government's financial plan if it includes corporate tax cuts.

The full account of the interview will be published online this evening and in Friday morning's print edition.

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About the Author
Writer-at-large

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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