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The topic of CCSVI, the radical new theory that MS may in fact be a vascular disease, has been raging on the Internet for several months now. On some prominent MS forums, the topic has bred near hysteria among contributors, and the websites of most of the major MS advocacy groups (the NMSS, the MSAA, etc.) have featured CCSVI information, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Outside of the US, CCSVI has been featured prominently in mainstream television and print news media outlets. In Canada, one of the major television networks aired a 20 minute long newsmagazine feature on CCSVI, and the pros and cons of the theory have been written about in many of the country's newspapers. The European news media have also devoted time to the theory, which got its start when the wife of an Italian vascular surgeon developed multiple sclerosis, and he investigated the blood vessels associated with her central nervous system, finding odd vascular abnormalities.
In the United States, though, the media have responded to this potentially groundbreaking theory with resounding silence. There have been no print articles about CCSVI in any major American newspaper, nor have any of the US television network news organizations paid it any notice. Very strange, given the breathless coverage many medical discoveries of lesser potential are given in the modern, voracious 24-hour news environment that demands a constant stream of newsworthy items and events. The "balloon boy" hoax was given countless hours of coverage; yet a story about a possible breakthrough in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, has warranted not even a whisper.
I've heard from very reliable sources that both CBS and ABC have had TV news stories in the can and ready to go for weeks now, but for some strange reason have not deemed them airworthy. Doctors and patients have been interviewed, and video pieces have been cut, only to be put on a shelf.
If I were a cynical man, I might wonder if sponsorship pressures could possibly be behind the silence of US news outlets. After all, if CCSVI were to prove correct, pharmaceutical companies would stand to lose billions of dollars in the yearly sales of the immunosuppressant MS drugs that have become a major cash cow for them. If I were a cynical man, I might watch all of the slick prescription drug commercials that now flood our airwaves, and contemplate the huge influence that the companies that pay to air them could exert on network and cable TV organizations with the mere threat of withholding some of their advertising dollars. If I were a cynical man, I might think about the fact that the United States no longer has any independent news gathering operations, the likes of which have all been swallowed up by huge corporate conglomerates whose focus is on the bottom line, not the dissemination of unbiased journalism.
I'm still not 100% convinced that CCSVI will prove to be THE answer for every patient struggling with multiple sclerosis. It very well might be, but there is still much to be discovered, and proper news coverage could spur into action research organizations, and the foundations that fund them, and thereby quicken the pace of discovery. If I were a cynical man, I'd contemplate these things while quietly humming the Viagra song...