Wednesday August 23rd 2017

N.B. doctors urge caution over MS treatment

The New Brunswick Medical Society is warning multiple sclerosis patients to be cautious when pursuing alternative therapies outside of the province.

The medical society’s warning comes after the provincial government’s announcement of a $250,000 fund for MS patients seeking medical treatment outside of New Brunswick.

The provincial government did not set aside the funding for any specific therapy, but Premier David Alward promised in last fall’s election the Progressive Conservatives would provide money for the controversial chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) surgery.

Dr. Allison Kennedy, the president of the organization that represents the province’s doctors, said the CCSVI procedure has not been proven effective “it carries significant risks, including death.”

“New Brunswick doctors remain cautious of any unproven surgical procedures that are undertaken outside of clinical trials,” Kennedy said in a statement.

The CCSVI treatment is not approved in Canada.

Dr. Paulo Zamboni, an Italian doctor who is a leading proponent of treating MS with angioplasty, bases his therapy on an unproven CCSVI theory that blocked veins in the neck or spine contribute to MS.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has also advised patients to take a cautious approach when considering receiving therapy outside of the country.

A recent University of Buffalo study looked at 289 MS patients and 163 healthy people. The vein abnormality CCSVI showed up in 56 per cent of MS patients, but it also presented in 22 per cent of healthy people who had no symptoms at all.

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé said the provincial government will still fund the initiative despite the University of Buffalo study.

The New Brunswick Medical Society said it understands patients must make their own decisions when regarding their care. Kennedy said patients should talk to their doctors about the treatment options.

“However, we strongly encourage any MS patients considering the Zamboni procedure, or any other alternative therapy, to have a conversation with their doctor about it,” he said in a statement.

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