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Zamboni Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Zamboni Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis                                   [print_link]

A Medical Catch-22

     Many of us use the term Catch-22 which was made famous in the book Catch-22 written by Joseph Heller. It is the story about a World War 2 bombardier pilot named Yossarian who is afraid that if he keeps flying missions he will die. The only way he can get a discharge and go home would be to prove that he was crazy. However if he was sane enough to not want to die in a fighter plane, then he is not crazy and is healthy enough for duty and must keep flying missions.

     At this time provincial health care and federal health care agencies have decided that since there is not enough evidence to show that the Zamboni system for treating MS is successful then we will not spend any money to research treatment; the Canadian version of a Catch-22. How can we find out if it works if we do not try?

     It infuriates me because there is no way that incompetent politicians should be making these decisions. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Every major university should kick in some research money to go with the measly 1 million dollars contributed by the MS Society.

     Do you think our governments would have given money to a man who spotted moldy bread and wanted to experiment with it to discover penicillin? They would have thrown him out the door. Would Best and Banting have ever discovered insulin if they had to get funding from the federal  government when they wanted to do research for a disease that people were born with and for which there was no treatment? At least the University of Toronto contributed research money and the whole world benefited from the discovery of a substance that could extend the life of Type 1 diabetics.

     At the present time there are 75,000 people in this country who are afflicted with MS. The treatment involves the dilation of blocked veins with balloon catheters; a treatment that has been used very successfully to treat blocked arteries and is called angioplasty. It is considered extremely safe and the benefits far outweigh the risks because with heart patients this surgery sometimes saves lives.

     Not everybody with multiple sclerosis is a candidate; only those who have the blocked veins. This may mean that there are different degrees of MS and different types and if anybody should be doing research in this area it should be us.

     A panel set up by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has rejected doing any studies at this time. The people on this board were highly skeptical of Zamboni’s theory of vein abnormalities and even went so far as to say that these studies should not be done in hospitals because they represent a high risk. That is what happens when you have a board made up of political appointees rather than medical people. Our Federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq has said absolutely no to medical trials even though she does not have any kind of medical background whatsoever.  You would think that in the provinces and federally we could find ministers of health from among the many physicians in this country.

     In spite of this the province of Saskatchewan is going to pay for clinical trials and Newfoundland seems prepared to follow suit.

     You can be sure that if one of the major pharmaceutical companies were starting human trials on a new drug that may or may not alleviate the symptoms of MS, then money would pour into their research from all over. If Dr.Zamboni’s treatment actually works, it would simply take more funding from the hospitals who would have to provide the procedures to treat these patients; a further drain on their limited resources.

     In a country like Canada with national health care every procedure done at a hospital uses up more of their financial resources. However, in the United States every procedure has the potential to make a profit for the hospital because either the patients or the insurance companies provide the money.

     The State University of New York at Buffalo did a study about a year ago that found that venous blockages were more common in MS patients than in those that do not have MS. (a similar study is being done right now at McMaster). Their ethics committee has just recently given approval to establish the safety of the treatment in a 10 patient “lead in trial” in June. The university will soon enroll 20 patients in a preliminary treatment study. Only those who have been identified in imaging tests as having vein abnormalities will be candidates.

     Of course this could be a great discovery and a great money-maker for the university. Does that mean that we are just supposed to stand around and do nothing and wait for their results? That is what our governments would like to do. Maybe we should send all of our qualified medical researchers to other countries if our governments do not want them to do research here.

     One of the things that distinguish the human race from animals is our ability to learn and create. In the last 100 years we have invented automobiles, airplanes, and discovered the cures to many major illnesses. We have created the most amazing wireless communication devices we can imagine, ones that actually bounce signals from satellites revolving around the earth and back.  Twenty years ago I would have laughed at a person who claimed they could take pictures with a camera that did not use any film.

     As one of the countries most affected by the disease of multiple sclerosis we should get off the fence and plunge our resources into trying to find a cure for this dreaded disease.

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