Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

In a striking departure from his political counterparts across the country, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his government will finance clinical trials of liberation therapy, a contentious experimental procedure for multiple sclerosis patients.

"There isn't unanimity on the issue, I understand that," Mr. Wall said on Tuesday. "But ... the province of Saskatchewan is willing to play a funding role."

The move shunts Saskatchewan to the forefront of Canadian efforts to introduce a treatment that has researchers, politicians and the MS community divided over the roots of the mysterious nerve-wasting disease and the pace of Canadian medical research.

Story continues below advertisement

While Mr. Wall's comments serve up an uncomfortable nudge to political leaders elsewhere who have largely avoided the emotionally charged debate, it comes as soothing news to those living with the disease.

"I'm ecstatic," said Lori Lumax, a 44-year-old Regina resident who was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, shortly after her entire left side stopped working. She has regained use of all her limbs, but her co-ordination and eyesight fail her if she becomes fatigued.

"It's not an easy disease to live with. For us, you're considered lucky if you can live a long life in a wheel chair. This creates hope we can do better."

Liberation therapy has been hotly debated among MS patients since Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni published results of a recent study that posits MS as a vascular disorder caused by vein blockages that lead to a buildup of iron in the brain rather than an autoimmune disease.

By opening constricted veins, he reportedly improved the condition of 65 patients.

"All these years, we've been getting an electrician to do a plumber's job," said Ms. Lumax. "I'm not saying the neurologists are doing anything wrong, but I don't want to be on my $2,000-a-month medications forever. The angioplasty could be a way to get off the medication."

The study results gained instant and fervent traction among MS patients worldwide, many of whom directed their enthusiasm into campaigns to have the procedure adopted by government health agencies.

Story continues below advertisement

While Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and several other countries now offer the surgery - attracting several Canadians at roughly $10,000 per angioplasty - health officials insist the research is still too meagre to warrant full-blown clinical trials.

"This procedure has clearly captured the public's imagination," said Paul Hébert, editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal and a critical-care physician. "But we have very little data to move forward. If this were anything else, any other procedure, we would say that we simply don't have enough information to allocate people to this potentially risky procedure."

And that's what makes Mr. Wall's comments unique, a very public declaration that Canada's snail-paced medical bureaucracy should unleash the purse-strings for a procedure that holds the potential of improving thousands of lives. Research funding has been granted to explore Dr. Zamboni's theory, but clinical trials would signal a clear acceleration in the normal pace of medical study.

"Yes, there is an unusual element here in that one procedure for one disease is being requested by a Premier," said Dr. Hébert. "He obviously wants the best for his patients and he can't go it alone. He is effectively calling on the federal government and the provinces to kick in money. And that to me is great."

But the optics could trip him up. Fast-tracking a specific avenue of research for a specific disease could give a skewed perception of medical priorities, said Dr. Hébert.

"I applaud Premier Wall because he is saying let's step up evidence-based care and research in the country," said Dr. Hébert. "But he must remember that there are countless diseases we need research for. If you open the door here, Mr. Wall, we hope you will promote the need for all clinical research all over the country."

Story continues below advertisement

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of MS in the country, making the issue somewhat personal for the Premier.

"There isn't anybody who doesn't have a family member or friend who is battling it," Mr. Wall said.

Even among MS patients, opinions on the radical technique are split. During recent Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada board elections last month, a voting faction arose with stated aim of closing out candidates who wanted resources increased for research into the Zamboni technique.

Those Canadians who have flown overseas for the procedure admit that, while promising, the angioplasty is not a cure-all.

"I still have patches of numbness, those things won't go away," said Duncan Thornton, a Winnipeg resident who travelled to Poland for the surgery in March. "But I have more energy than I've had for 20 years. I can play with my kids, I can stand up and do dishes, I can live life like a normal parent."

With a report from Canadian Press

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies