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Epilepsy is treatable yet deaths rising

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However, the neurological society of South Africa (NASA) says the risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is up to three times higher than the general population.   

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) has increased in South Africa since 2004, status epilepticus, unintentional injuries and suicide are all contributing factors. On 27 May 2022, World Health Organization’s (WHO's) World Health Assembly adopted an Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and other Neurological Disorders 2022-2031 (IGAP) to improve access to care and treatment for neurological disorders.  

Worldwide an estimated 50 million people suffer from epilepsy of which 70%-80% are found in low- and middle-income countries where inadequate access to health facilities and potentially preventable causes of epilepsy, are lacking.  

Dr Patty Frances, president of NASA said the wide treatment gap is due to the percentage of people with epilepsy whose seizures are not being appropriately treated at a given point in time is estimated at 75% in low-income countries and is substantially higher in rural than in urban areas. 

SA: ONLY ONE NEUROLOGIST PER 500 000 PEOPLE 

“In South Africa the treatment gap is exasperated by severe staff and resource shortages. The ratio of neurologists to the population in South Africa is one per 500 000, compared to 35 per 500 000 population in high-income countries, limited access to antiseizure medicines, lack of knowledge, misperceptions and stigma.”   

“Epilepsy affects people of all ages, genders, races and income levels. It is a highly treatable condition and over 70% of people with epilepsy could live seizure-free if they had access to appropriate anti-seizure treatment, the most cost-effective of which are included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines,” Dr Francis said.   

“Health systems have not yet adequately responded to the burden of neurological disorders across the life course,” explained Dr Francis. “While approximately 70% of people with neurological disorders live in low-income countries, this need is poorly recognised with only 28% of low-income countries having a dedicated policy for neurological disorders. Worldwide, public health system expenditure on neurological disorders also remains low. WHO’s Neurology Atlas 2017 highlights an imbalance in health system supply and demand with only 12% of countries surveyed reporting a separate budget line for neurological disorders. Even though Section 27 of the South African Constitution pertains to health matters, there is no specific mention of epilepsy or neurological disorders.”
  

References available on request. 

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