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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Two year wait for epilepsy treatment in Ireland

5 December, 2006

People
with epilepsy have to wait for up to two years to see a specialist in
the Republic of Ireland, a parliamentary committee has heard.

The Brainwave support organisation told the all-party body that the
state had less than half of the recommended number of neurologists.

Ava Battles, Director of Services, said: "You're talking about somebody
who has to drive from Donegal to Dublin and they have to wait for two
years to get that first appointment.

"That's a serious gap in services. You're also talking about all the
other difficulties for that individual. For that period of time they
are being managed by their GP who does not have specialist expertise in
the condition."

In
addition, the Oireachtas committee has said it will call the Irish
Medicines Board (IMB) to explain its policy of licensing generic drugs
as substitutes for brand-name drugs in the treatment of epilepsy.

The
Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children was told the use of
generic drugs could cause "serious damage to every aspect" of the lives
of people with epilepsy.

John
Maloney, the chairman of the committee, said he would invite the IMB to
address it following a call from member Dr Jimmy Devins to do so.

Dr
Devins said it was "huge information" to him that the IMB could license
generic drugs as substitutes for brand-name anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
and that key ingredients of the brand-name AED could vary by as much as
twenty per cent in the generic drug.

Brainwave's
chief executive, Michael Glynn, told the committee this was causing
enormous anxiety to people with epilepsy as it was vital that the
combination of AEDs they took remained constant. Otherwise their
seizures could return, potentially affecting their work, their right to
hold a driving licence and their quality of life.

He
said pharmacists and GPs often did not know of the potential dangers of
switching a branded AED for a cheaper generic version and called for a
"change in the law protecting AEDs from inappropriate switching".