The honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada Health Minister.
Recently I have heard you assigning 5 millions into a clinical trial of “liberation therapy” for multiple sclerosis patients. These patients were going out of country to get this procedure done, and following their request to offer the treatment here in Canada, you agreed and allocated some money.
I am a patient with ME/CFS, (myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome) which is a neurologic disease as per the World Health Organization. This disease get very little respect in the medical world and very few physicians are knowledgeable about it. In fact I would be surprised that medical students get appropriate teaching about it. ME/CFS can be just as severe as someone with congestive heart failure, end-stage AIDS or progressive MS.
Patients with ME/CFS are usually left to their own mean, receive no medical care and can be very disabled by this illness. The burden it causes to society is enormous, from loss of wage, to medical costs to disability pension payments. Patients are also often discriminated against due to the name of this illness, since most physicians who haven't received any education for ME/CFS think this is quite a benign illness. Lots of patients will report that their physician do not take their symptoms seriously, like chest pain, headaches and other neurologic symptoms. In fact the 3 main causes of deaths for ME/CFS patients are cancer, cardiac events and suicide. Suicide happens due to the lack of support, medical care and beliefs that us patients are malingerers.
Mistreatments have happened in the past with MS patients who would be hospitalized in psychiatry and diagnosed with hysterical paralysis. Recent studies have shown that ME/CFS is not a psychiatric illness, does not get treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or graduated exercise therapy, and may be of infectious origin, from the work of Lombardi et al at the Whittemore-Peterson Institute and Shutzer et al.
Statistics Canada counted over 413 000 ME/CFS sufferers in 2010, a 25% increase compared to the last statistics in 2005. Yet recent studies have shown that 80% of ME/CFS patients do not get diagnosed as such and usually discounted as simple fatigue. The amount of money awarded for our illness has been abysmal, lower than 1 million dollar in total in the last 10 years, and most research have been of psychological or behavioral nature. In contrast, there are between 50 and 75 000 patients with MS in Canada that receive millions and millions of dollar in research every year.
Immunologists have proven immune activation and changes in cytokines, natural killer cell function and chronic viral reactivation which are totally ignored in Canada. Moreover, patients with ME/CFS may have an infectious retrovirus as per Lombardi et al.
Patients with ME/CFS get no healthcare here in Canada and no research. The numbers of patients are growing rapidly, however their concerns are still discounted. It is time that our governments who have once received our taxes wake up and start paying attention and stimulate research in our field. Moreover, it is time that the medical field wakes up and that more physicians get trained in caring for us. The fact that this complex illness belongs to no medical specialty is a travesty.
Currently in the USA a clinical trial (phase 3) of Ampligen is going on. Ampligen, an immuno modulator has been in the market for over 15 years now- yet it hasn't been approved to use. Patients should be offered this medicine so they can get relief from their illness and perhaps return to work. Patients should have the same access to health care as patients with cancer or HIV/AIDS.
Today Mrs Aglukkaq I am requesting your attention. Canada is hosting the international ME/CFS conference in Ottawa in September, yet, beyond our community, no one knows about it. I am requesting that you stimulate research funding for ME/CFS and recommentd physicians to get educated about our disease, and start offering treatments like Immunovir, Rituximab (Norway study) or Ampligen and anti-virals such as Valtrex and Valcyte (Lerner, Montoya). Pathogen studies like XMRV and other Gammaretroviruses should be of great concern for our governments and should be researched with great care.
It is time that our Canadian government pays attention to over 413 000 citizens who are sick and get no health care.
Thank you, Kati sick for 2 years and 8 months.