In Canada, the prevalence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is among the highest in the world, with almost 75,000 Canadians living with the disease and nearly 1000 newly diagnosed each year.
And the suicide rate for MS sufferers is seven times higher than the national average. This shocking statistic underlines the hopelessness felt by many who have MS.
To that end, on June 26, 2011, I brought forward Bill S-204, an Act to Establish a National Strategy for Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI). Among other things, the bill calls on the Minister of Health to convene a meeting with provincial and territorial Ministers of Health to establish a national strategy for MS/CCSVI. This would ensure that support and resources would be provided to all MS patients no matter where they live in Canada.
Bill S-204 would also collect data on those who have received venous angioplasty for MS/CCSVI whether or not the procedure was done in Canada. This is something that Liberal MPs Dr. Kirsty Duncan and Dr. Carolyn Bennett have long called for, and despite the Conservative government agreeing to do so over 18 months ago, it has yet to establish the registry.
Finally, Bill S-204 provides for follow-up care for those MS patients who have had the procedure done outside of Canada. Dr. Duncan, a passionate MS advocate, and I have heard many stories of MS/CCSVI patients who have been refused follow-up care when they returned home, and that is simply not acceptable. There should be no discrimination against MS patients.
On September 28, the government announced clinical trials. The press release spoke of “pan-Canadian” trials. Yet my home province of Nova Scotia has been excluded from the trials. In fact, these trials will take place only in British Columbia and Quebec, and later in Manitoba. A few provinces can hardly qualify as “pan-Canadian”.
Venous angioplasty for MS/CCSVI takes place in 60 countries worldwide. Over 30,000 procedures have been undertaken to date. While we must always ensure that drugs and procedures are safe, the process in Canada has been very slow with this government making announcements followed by long delays.
We can no longer afford to wait to help those suffering from this debilitating disease. The federal government must assume a strong leadership role and immediately implement a national strategy on MS.
Senator Jane Cordy