The Alberta government’s decision to have provincial universities study the so-called “liberation therapy” for multiple sclerosisis is a good step forward for public health and a good example of the important role that universities play in the community.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced a similar study a couple of weeks ago.
Canada has one of the highest MS rates in the world and this treatment has attracted a lot of interest. So much in fact that New Brunswick has announced plans to fund treatments in other countries.
But there are still many unanswered questions. The treatment has not been subject to serious study and while there are many anecdotal success stories there have also been reports of serious side effects, including death.
The studies in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador are not clinical trials but they are a first step. Over the summer, expert advisers to the federal government said that clinical trials would be premature.
But Canadians are still leaving the country to receive this treatment and it’s important for people suffering from MS to have answers about it so they can make informed decisions and, if it is as successful as has been claimed, be treated in Canada. It’s also important for Canadian doctors to be aware of the side effects, in order to treat them, whether this treatment gains approval or not.
Many people, both inside and outside of academia, tend to think of universities as detached ivory towers, so it’s good to see universities doing work that has the potential to directly improve the lives of many Canadians and, at the very least, will give them piece of mind.