Controversial ‘liberation therapy’ remains divisive

May Feitsma of Ponoka is disappointed the controversial “liberation therapy” treatment that claims to help those suffering with multiple sclerosis is still unavailable in Canada.

May Feitsma of Ponoka is disappointed the controversial “liberation therapy” treatment that claims to help those suffering with multiple sclerosis is still unavailable in Canada.

The experimental procedure, pioneered by Italian physician Dr. Paolo Zamboni, is suspended on the premise that MS is linked to chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), a narrowing of the neck and chest veins. It involves widening and/or unclogging blocked veins in the neck and upper chest through angioplasty or ballooning.

“If you have blockage in the veins going to your heart, they fix that in an instant here,” she said. “It’s too bad.”

Feitsma, who has secondary-progressive MS, travelled to California last month to have the procedure done for the second time.

It cost her $8,000 and though she hasn’t seen a difference in her condition as of yet, she said she’d do it all over again.

But the recent warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in regards to the mixed-results therapy has many Central Albertans glad the Canadian government is being cautious.

The FDA is warning health care professionals and patients about injuries and even deaths associated with the experimental procedure, which is still unavailable in Canada.

More research and continued clinical trials are key, said Judy Gordon, newly elected to the board of directors for the Alberta division of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

“MS is a very complicated disease and it varies greatly from individual to individual,” said Gordon, the former mayor of Lacombe and also a former MLA, and a passionate advocate for those with MS.

Gordon was diagnosed in 2007 with MS, an immune-mediated disorder of the brain and spinal cord. Researchers have yet to find a cause and a cure for MS.

“We need more facts, guidelines and criteria to work with to understand the procedure as much as possible,” said Gordon. “Right now, we don’t know how many people have had the procedure, how many have died, how many have got sick, how many have been turned away because doctors can’t find the vein blockages, etcetera.”

Furthermore, studies on the link between MS and CCSVI have so far been inconclusive, stated the FDA, and the criteria used to diagnose CCSVI has not been “adequately established.”

The FDA said it has received reports of at least one death from the procedure. They listed many other serious complications as well, including blood clots and displaced stents.

Canada has taken a direction forward, though, when the health minister approved clinical trails, which began last June.

“Much like our Canadian system, the FDA has decided that more research is needed in this department and that is a good thing so we can understand it more,” said Lorraine Evans-Cross, executive director of the Central Alberta chapter for the MS Society of Canada. “We do however believe that everyone has a choice and we want to make sure that those who have had the procedure know the MS society is here for them no matter what.”

The society has put forth $1 million towards that clinical trail and much more to other studies of its own on CCVI.

Hazel Flewwelling, a retired Red Deer teacher, and also a new board director with the MS Society’s Alberta division, said she thinks there’s “something to the therapy” but that they need more data collected and closer record kept on it.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes the wonders the therapy can do for some people,” she said. “But as with any treatment there are risks. We have to responsibly manage those risks.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Muskrats can occupy any wetland that is shallow enough to permit the growth of their aquatic food.
Pearman: Muskrats numbers rebounding in central Alberta

I have spent many pleasant hours muskrat watching. Time spent in the… Continue reading

Most Read