Canadians support liberation treatment trials: survey
Published Wednesday, December 15, 2010 6:48PM EST
A vast majority of Canadians believe the federal government should support clinical trials of the controversial "liberation treatment" for multiple sclerosis, and say the procedure should be available in Canadian hospitals for patients who request it, according to a new survey.
In an online poll of 2,011 Canadian adults, conducted Dec. 13 to Dec. 15, polling firm Angus Reid Public Opinion found that three quarters of respondents support government-funded clinical trials, while 82 per cent support making the treatment available to Canadian patients.
The poll found that 37 per cent of respondents had seen, read or heard something about the procedure, while another 13 per cent said they were well-informed about the treatment. Half of respondents had never heard of the procedure.
Mario Canseco, vice president of communications and media relations with Angus Reid Public Opinion says he was impressed that such a large segment of the respondents had heard something about the procedure.
"It means that there are a lot of people paying attention to the story," he told CTV.ca, noting that 39 per cent of respondents also said they personally knew someone with MS.
"This survey shows there's a lot of appetite for allowing people to have this medical treatment. There's high support for that and high support for actually testing it."
The so-called liberation treatment was developed by Italian vascular surgeon Dr. Paolo Zamboni, whose research suggests that the majority of MS patients have blockages in veins in their necks that prevent blood from draining from the brain. According to Zamboni, these blockages cause toxic levels of iron to build up in the brain, which triggers MS symptoms, such as fatigue and paralysis.
Earlier this year, the Canadian and U.S. MS Societies announced that they will offer $2.4 million in research grants for studies on Zamboni's theory. But the federal government has said it will abstain from funding clinical trials until further research is completed.
Meanwhile, patients buoyed by Zamboni's findings are travelling to foreign countries to have the treatment, at great personal expense -- and sometimes, risk. Some patients have reported complications since returning home. One patient who travelled to Costa Rica for an unauthorized form of the procedure using a metal stent to keep the vein propped open died in October after developing a blood clot.
The Quebec College of Physicians has warned patients that further research must be done on the treatment to prove its effectiveness and advised them not to seek treatment at overseas clinics.
But many patients have returned from outside Canada reporting a vast improvement in their symptoms. And the Angus Reid survey found that many Canadians believe the patients over the experts.
When asked which side of the debate over the liberation procedure they agreed with most, 61 per cent said they side with MS sufferers who have had the treatment and claim it has provided relief. Twelve per cent support the doctors who claim the treatment is unproven and risky, while 27 per cent said they weren't sure.
The survey was conducted online between Dec. 13 and Dec. 15 and has a margin of error +/- 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.