Saskatchewan sending MS patients to New York

Saskatchewan will be sending some 80 to 90 multiple sclerosis patients to Albany, N.Y., for clinical trials in a controversial neck vein therapy.

The province announced Friday it was putting $2 million aside to cover costs and patient expenses.

The province had previously announced it would participate in the federal government's clinical trials on the procedure proponents call "liberation therapy."

The therapy is based on the idea that collapsed veins in the necks of some MS patients prevent blood flow to the brain. Doctors inflate tiny balloons inside the veins to open them up again.

Many patients who suffer impaired mobility, spasms and vision problems say the treatments help their symptoms.

But many doctors say MS is an autoimmune disease, not a vascular problem, and have noted that any apparent improvements don't last.

The provincial government was originally planning to spend $5 million on clinical trials done in Saskatchewan, which has a higher MS rate than the Canadian average. However, the province failed to approve the only applicant and decided to work with Ottawa instead.

It says it's still supporting the federal effort. However, the province was worried about how long that would take to get going.

It's now working with a research team led by Dr. Gary Siskin, a vascular and interventional radiologist at Albany Medical Centre.

The protocols are still being worked out, but it's hoped the first Saskatchewan patients will be heading to Albany early in the new year.