Dr. Barry Rubin, medical director of the Toronto General Hospital’s cardiac centre and member of an expert group advising the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) about the effectiveness of a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Rubin, and his three fellow co-authors, have likened “the liberation procedure” to faith healing and stated funding trials of a procedure:
“that has minimal basis in rational, empirical knowledge seems questionable.”
The procedure was developed by Italian Doctor Paolo Zamboni to unblock the veins of the neck and spine a condition Zamboni has named chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI). The treatment” involves opening the blocked veins by inserting a balloon, a procedure known as venous angioplasty.
Rubins comments follow an announcement by Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq last month who said a team of researchers has been selected to conduct a clinical trial into CCSVI in about 100 MS patients.
The views have attracted some controversy in Canada with some politicians calling for a new expert group to be formed and questioning whether Rubin is an unbiased judge of the scientific literature.
Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency remains controversial in the medical community as a cause for MS. A controversy not helped by Zambonis first studies being unblinded and lacking a comparison group. The “liberation procedure” has been criticized for possibly resulting in serious complications and deaths while its benefits have not been proven. In 2010 Stanford University halted CCSVI treatments after these two serious incidents.