Two provinces moving on follow-up care for MS liberation therapy
KAREN HOWLETT, The Globe and Mail. March 1st, 2011.
Two provinces are leading the push for national guidelines to end the ambiguity around follow-up care for Canadians with multiple sclerosis who travel outside the country for a controversial new medical procedure.
In Alberta, the College of Physicians and Surgeons plans to publish in the next few days guidelines on monitoring patients for complications from the procedure known as liberation therapy.
And in Ontario, the McGuinty government is setting up a panel of medical experts to establish standards of care for patients who travel as far as South America and Europe in search of relief from the nerve-wasting disease.
Medical experts and advocates for MS patients say they expect the standards Ontario is developing to be adopted across the country. Canada currently has no national guidelines on how to monitor patients who have had the liberation treatment in other countries, because the procedure is not approved here and it has yet to undergo rigorous clinical trials.
Ever since it was introduced about a year ago, liberation therapy has divided doctors and their patients. The treatment is highly contentious because it disputes the long-held view that MS is an autoimmune disease. Dr. Zamboni believes MS patients have damage in blood vessels in their necks caused by too much iron. He has developed a procedure to clear the blockage, which involves opening veins in the neck and spinal cord. He believes this procedure combats symptoms of MS, which can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue and paralysis.
In Alberta, the guidelines will tell doctors what to do if patients are on blood thinners – a common remedy to help prevent clotting – and what imaging studies they should do to monitor any blockages in the stent, said Trevor Theman, registrar at the College of Physicians.
The Ontario government is also calling on Ottawa to create a national database of MS patients that would contain information on symptoms and what treatments are most effective. The data base would be a useful research tool for both patients and doctors, Mr. Savoie said.
But the province is stopping short of funding a study of the liberation therapy treatment.
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