Thursday January 18th 2018

Yukon moves on controversial MS trial

The Yukon government will spend up to $250,000 so Yukoners with multiple sclerosis can participate in the trials of a controversial treatment for the often disabling disease, which attacks the central nervous system.

The government announced last year that it intended to help Yukoners participate in the liberation therapy trials being run by the Saskatchewan government, and on Thursday, announced funding for the program.

“Yukon will contribute $143,000 to the actual clinical trials, while the remaining $107,000 will support Yukon residents who may qualify to participate, if the decision is made to proceed with the trials,” the government said in a news release.

Liberation therapy is based on an unproven theory of chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), that blocked veins in the neck or spine are to blame for MS. A balloon angioplasty is used to widen a vein in the neck, which is thought to relieve a buildup of iron in the brain. Many Canadians have been travelling abroad to have it performed.

The therapy is not approved by Health Canada, and much of the medical community has been skeptical about the procedure.

The Yukon health department’s Pat Living said the money means Yukoners with MS who are suitable candidates for the therapy will have a spot in the trials.

Saskatchewan was the first jurisdiction to commit to fund liberation therapy trials, promising $5 million. Other provinces have joined in, including Manitoba, which also promised $5 million earlier in April.

“We are hoping that these trials will give us the answers that we, and individuals with MS are waiting for. MS is a devastating disease and we all want a solution,” Health Minister Don McMorris said.

Saskatchewan will make an announcement regarding the progress of the research process in late May, he said.

Yukon residents who are interested can check the Health and Social Services website for updates.

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