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"Inadequate treatment" for one in five newly diagnosed patients with epilepsy in the UK

22 October, 2001

Around one in five people newly diagnosed patients with epilepsy will not be treated adequately, finds research in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. Around 30,000 people a year are diagnosed with epilepsy in the UK. 

Researchers monitored 564 patients with epilepsy for between 11 and 14 years after diagnosis. The patients were part of the UK National General Practice Study of Epilepsy, which began in 1984 and involved 275 general practices. 

Only 15 per cent of patients were given treatment after just one seizure, but the high rates of recurrence eventually led to over three quarters being given treatment. Less than half of those with partial seizures and less than a third with generalised seizures were treated with the recommended drug. Almost a third of those with one or more seizures a week had never been given an alternative drug. Only 11 per cent of patients were prescribed the newest drugs. 

One in five had not managed to achieve remission from symptoms for five years. And 7 per cent had not switched drug despite failure to achieve remission for at least two years. Five per cent of patients continued to have one or more seizures a week. 

Despite some improvements in treatment and practice, the authors calculate that "there are many people in the prevalent 'pool' of patients with chronic epilepsy who have not been adequately treated."

They add: "The lack of change and slowness to change are an indictment of current practice, and suggest that too often an insouciant attitude is taken to early epilepsy."

They conclude: "Our results show that there is considerable scope for improving the care of patients with epilepsy."