Answers for MS patients

January 12, 2012

Our government is keeping the promise we made to help find answers for MS patients and their families. On January 12, we announced that MS patients in Saskatchewan can now apply to take part in the largest Liberation Therapy clinical trial of its type. The two-year, double-blind clinical trial at Albany Medical Centre in Albany, New York is in the final stages of Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval and can proceed immediately. Our government is providing $2.2 million in funding to have 86 Saskatchewan MS patients included in the trial.

This will be a controlled clinical study in which half of the participants will have the procedure and half will not. The resulting data will give us sound, scientific evidence which will allow for an unbiased decision on the future of Liberation Therapy. We hope that through this study we can answer some of the questions about Liberation Therapy as a treatment for this debilitating disease which effects about 3,500 Saskatchewan people.

Patients interested in volunteering can apply online at www.health.gov.sk.ca/ms-clinical-trial or by calling 1-855-690-9901. Applications will be accepted until February 24. Candidates will be chosen at random to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to participate. Those selected will be contacted by phone and begin a screening process to ensure they meet eligibility requirements. This includes an in-person assessment by a neurologist in Regina. Patients who are eligible will travel to Albany at no cost to them. They will also have periodic follow-up appointments, which will also be provided at no cost to them. It is expected the first patients will travel to Albany in March of this year.

The journey to this point began in 2010, when Premier Brad Wall announced Saskatchewan would be the first province in Canada to fund clinical trials for liberation treatment. We committed $5 million to a partnership with the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) for research purposes. In the following months, several other provinces announced similar intentions or that they would create patient registries or databases on those who have received the treatment. Unfortunately, the partnership with the SHRF did not result in a suitable research proposal.

Last summer, the federal government followed Saskatchewan's lead when it announced that the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) will proceed with national research into Liberation Therapy. While we are still interested in taking part in the national program, that process could take two to three years to complete. Our government is not willing to leave Saskatchewan MS patients and their families in limbo until then.

Admittedly, there are many unknowns surrounding Liberation Therapy as a treatment for multiple sclerosis. That should not deter us though from seeking answers for MS patients and their families. They deserve no less.

For more information, go to www.health.gov.sk.ca/ms-clinical-trial or call 1-855-690-9901.

To view the government news release, click here.