HC Deb 04 December 1962 vol 668 cc1111-3
3. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what information he has about progress in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis; and if he will make a statement.

10. Mr. J. Howard

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what resources, in terms of money and manpower, are being devoted to research upon multiple sclerosis; and what progress is being made.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

Research into multiple sclerosis is being supported from public funds by the Medical Research Council and by university and hospital departments. In addition, a valuable contribution is being made by voluntary organisations, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Nuffield Foundation. A great deal of fundamental research which may prove relevant to the understanding of demyelinating diseases, is also being undertaken. I therefore regret that it would not be possible to estimate the expenditure and manpower involved in research relevant to this disease.

Progress in this research is, unfortunately, slow, but the problem is being attacked along several lines, and every effort will be made to follow up promising leads.

Mr. Hynd

As it is clear from the Minister's answer that no cure is so far available in this country, and as there are pretty strong claims of a cure being available across the Channel, is it not possible for the Ministry to enable patients from this country to go abroad to get the treatment that is apparently available there?

Mr. Freeth

With regard to the last part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, this would, of course, be a matter for my right hon. Friend tile Minister of Health. With regard to the Le Gac method, which involves the administration of antibiotic drugs, I can only tell the hon. Member that tests carried out in this country for evidence of infection by such organisms as the method presupposes in persons suffering from multiple sclerosis have so far been negative.

Mr. Howard

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the promising [...]ine of research being undertaken at Leeds and Newcastle, and urge him to implement the promise of Her Majesty's Government by giving more support to these two projects?

Mr. Freeth

I am not aware of any worth-while line of study put forward by a first-class man in relation to the causes of this disease for which a grant applied for has not been granted. If my hon. Friend has any particular lines of approach in mind, I should be most happy to bring them to the notice of the Medical Research Council.

Mr. Mitchison

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this is a very dreadful and a very painful disease? Apparently, he has at present no suggestions to make for approaching a treatment or a cure of the disease. Will he think over the matter again and, at a suitable time, make a statement in the House as to what steps are now being taken to do something about it?

Mr. Freeth

The hon. and learned Gentleman is, if I may say so, quite wrong. The Medical Research Council is following up a number of leads. In 1961, it set up a research group on demyelinating diseases, and in the last 12 months has held no fewer than two conferences on these particular types of disease in order to provide leading research workers in different disciplines with the opportunity of discussion and exchange of views, out of which it is hoped further promising lines of research might appear.