Annette Funicello’s Multiple Sclerosis Battle

This past week, we learned Annette Funicello, 70, the former Mouseketeer and pop culture icon, passed away. Complications from multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative neurological disease she battled during the past 25 years, factored into her death.

According to news reports, Ms. Funicello traveled to Italy to undergo an alternative treatment for MS. Known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) therapy, the procedure is available in Europe but not in the US.

The surgical technique uses balloon angioplasty or a stent to broaden veins in the neck to improve blood flow. CCSVI therapy advocates believe that narrowing in the veins causes abnormal blood flow, which damages nerve tissue and leads to the lesions and immune responses that cause debilitating symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis.

This theory remains unproven. For years, CCSVI therapy drew criticism by researchers who could not obtain positive results for their MS patients. In fact, a recent report on the largest study to test this theory didn’t support it. We need to base MS treatment on good science.

The good news is that there are many available multiple sclerosis treatments, and each approaches the disease differently. Several new MS medications have become available in the last two years and it is likely the FDA will approve other new MS drugs in the near future.

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