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In Search of Evidence-Based Policy Another area where a well-meaning effort to help people appears at odds with the scientific evidence is the so-called “Liberation Treatment” for multiple sclerosis (MS) based on Italian researcher Paolo Zamboni’s theory that the disease is caused by vein blockages, dubbed CCSVI.
Many Canadian politicians have taken an unusually active interest in this. Alberta committed $1-million to a study of the procedure, and other provinces promised funding for clinical trials – despite the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) warning against doing so. The federal Liberals even criticized the Conservatives for following the CIHR’s advice.
However, many subsequent studies have found no correlation between these blockages and MS. So far no one has replicated Zamboni’s findings.
A large study this month out of the University of Buffalo found CCSVI in 56 per cent of MS patients, and 42 per cent among those with other neurological condition. It was also present in 23 per cent of healthy patients. The authors suggest that MS might be causing CCSVI, but conclude the reverse is unlikely.
More research is needed, but so far the scientific evidence is not matching the enthusiasm of many policy makers. While the door should not yet be closed on this theory, we should consider the risks of devoting great amounts of resources into a theory that might not pan out.
Many hopes were raised by Zamboni’s theory, but wanting it to be true does not make it so. As disappointing as it may be, we need to heed the evidence.
As we’ve seen, though, when the evidence clashes with our hopes, our fears, or our long held beliefs, it can be easy to ignore.
That’s no excuse for policy makers and politicians. An improvement on the status quo is not too much to ask.