Saskatchewan’s health minister is promising to move quickly on two out of nine recommendations outlined in a report on providing better clinical care for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients and improving research.
Health Minister Dustin Duncan says the government will move to form an advisory council on all degenerative neurological diseases and create a registry for MS patients in the province.
“We want to have a provincial-based registry, regardless of where people live and regardless of where their services are provided,” Duncan said. “This will help us to respond more timely when we see that there are national and international clinical trials.”
He envisions a registry that would include information on treatment plans, symptoms and specific diagnosis in order to match patients with upcoming clinical trials.
After consulting with people who live with the debilitating disease and their families, the MS Review Panel submitted the following nine recommendations. They fall under three main themes including: patient care, research and education, and clinical trials.
- Develop a provincial strategy to educate, recruit and retain MS specialist neurologists and an MS multidisciplinary health care team.
- Develop road maps of access to care for all people with MS (including people in remote and rural communities and at different stages of the disease).
- Create a Saskatchewan-specific MS provincial registry compatible with the existing Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Monitoring System (CMSMS).
- Create an ongoing degenerative neurological diseases advisory council.
Research and Education
- Support the work of an MS clinical research chair at the University of Saskatchewan.
- Support research funding through the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) for MS-related projects.
- Enhance MS educational opportunities for students, researchers and health care professionals.
- Provide enhanced administrative and clerical support for the Saskatchewan MS registry for the purpose of facilitating research and clinical trials.
- Develop sustainable infrastructure support for a unit dedicated to clinical trials including training and resource allocation.
In response to the other seven recommendations on the list, Duncan says it will be a matter of juggling priorities for spending in the next budget.
He says he agrees with the idea of recruiting an MS specialist in neurology. But he noted that the first priority has to be filling a vacant position in general neurology in Saskatoon because that will help a greater number of people. He added that filling the general position first might give any potential specialist recruits more confidence because they wouldn’t have to take on a higher work load.
Duncan noted that the MS research chair position in Saskatoon is also currently empty, but the ministry supports ongoing work to recruit someone to fill that position.
When it comes to funding more research and clinical trials, Duncan says he would support any funding from the health research foundation towards MS projects. However, he said it’s not the role of government to dictate research funding because there is a review process in place.
Saskatchewan was involved directly with a clinical trial in Albany which was cancelled in 2013.
“We’d have to judge what the extent of Saskatchewan’s involvement would be on future trials based on their own merits,” Duncan said. “I’m not going to say that every clinical trial that does come up Saskatchewan will jump at the opportunity, we’ll certainly investigate it.”
Duncan said the hope is that immediately acting on two of the recommendations will send a signal that the province is serious about finding answers and solutions to dealing with MS.