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Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Legislation Killed By Conservative Senators

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OTTAWA - The Conservatives have used their Senate majority to kill legislation that would have authorized a national strategy to deal with a controversial therapy for multiple sclerosis.

Liberal senators say it's shameful that Bill S-204 was squelched in committee.

"This bill is dead, the Conservatives killed it," said Sen. Jim Munson.

"Before we even got to clause by clause in this bill, the Conservative senators shut down the debate. They refused to allow a bill to go to clause by clause and thus go in to the Senate to become law."

The Liberals said their Conservative opponents even refused to allow MS patients to testify about the effects of treatment for what is known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency or CCSVI.

"They don't want to hear from MS patients, to have them as witnesses before the committee," said Sen. Jane Cordy, sponsor of the bill. "This is shameful."

The Conservative senators argued this is a matter for science and medicine, not Parliament.

"Since Day 1, the Conservative have played politics with MS patients," Cordy said.

"The Conservative senators on that committee threw the science away and have used politics, politics, politics."

Cordy says as many as 75,000 Canadians suffer from MS.

The government has promised clinical trials of the therapy and a national register of patients, although neither the trials nor the registry have started.

The bill would have required a national strategy and formal trials of what is known as liberation therapy.

The treatment is based on a hypothesis from Italian vascular surgeon Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who theorizes that a narrowing of veins that drain blood from the brain may be linked to MS.

Liberation therapy involves opening up blocked neck veins.

The treatment is not offered in Canada and some patients have travelled around the world to seek it out. Saskatchewan has budgeted $2.2 million to have 86 Saskatchewan patients take part in an American trial.

The treatment has caused controversy. Some patients say their symptoms have been alleviated by the therapy. Some scientists, however, say they can't find a link between MS and narrowed veins.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about liberation therapy in May. It cautioned health-care professionals and patients that injuries and deaths have been associated with the experimental procedure.

"Because there is no reliable evidence from controlled clinical trials that this procedure is effective in treating MS, FDA encourages rigorously conducted, properly targeted research to evaluate the relationship between CCSVI and MS," William Maisel, a senior scientist with the agency, said in the alert.

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