The Manitoba Health Research Council today pulled the plug on provincially sponsored trials to test the so-called liberation treatment for multiple sclerosis.
The research council issued a press release saying that after a thorough review, it has determined that the sole team of researchers that applied to conduct the research did not meet its criteria for a safe, ethical clinical trial.
Eighteen months ago, after considerable pressure from some MS sufferers, Premier Greg Selinger committed $5 million for conducting clinical trials on the worthiness of the liberation therapy, which unblocks veins in a patient’s neck.
The province handed the task of assessing research proposals to the council.
"MHRC has a duty to ensure any funded research meets criteria for safety and ethics, and the scientific review team, consisting of leading national and international researchers, determined the application we received did not meet that criteria," said the research council’s chair, Dr. Brian Postl.
The research council noted that a separate call for proposals co-ordinated by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has identified a research team to conduct clinical trials on the treatment procedure.
The council said it has recommended that the Manitoba government partner with CIHR to support the broader multi-site study. It recommended that a portion of the government’s original $5 million funding commitment be set aside for that purpose and that Manitoba patients be included in the study..
Liberation treatment, available abroad but not in Canada, involves unblocking veins to normalize blood flow from the brain. Some Canadian MS sufferers have travelled as far away as Europe, India and Egypt for the procedure.
The treatment was developed by Italian researcher Paolo Zamboni in 2008. He coined the term CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) to describe the compromised flow of blood in veins leading from the brain and hypothesized that it played a role in causing MS. His liberation therapy involves inserting stents in certain veins to improve blood flow.
In a statement, Health Minister Theresa Oswald said she accepted the research council’s recommendations.
"Manitoba’s government has always been committed to helping MS patients, their families and their doctors get the answers they need about CCSVI," she said. "We accept MHRC’s recommendations to pursue a safe CCSVI clinical trial that will include Manitoba patients."