WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says a significant number of people with epilepsy in the Caribbean do not receive treatment.
It said epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting about 50 million people, five million of whom live in the Americas.
The epilepsy mortality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean is 1.04 per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than the 0.50 per 100,000 inhabitants in the United States and Canada, PAHO said, noting that two thirds of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean do not have a programme for the comprehensive care of people with epilepsy.
PAHO also said that 80 per cent of regional countries do not have appropriate legislation regarding epilepsy.
In order to help countries design programmes to detect cases and increase access to appropriate treatment for this disorder, PAHO said it recently published “The Management of Epilepsy in the Public Health Sector 2018”.
It said that two out of every three countries do not have a programme or plan in place to treat people with this disease.
“People who have epilepsy but do not receive treatment suffer recurrent episodes. This can affect their studies, their work, and quality of life for both them and their families,” said Claudina Cayetano, PAHO’s Regional Advisor on Mental Health.
“Timely diagnosis, adequate treatment, healthy diet and stress management can ensure that up to 70 percent of those affected have reduced episodes and can lead full and active lives,” she added.
In recent years, PAHO said countries have strengthened their focus on non-communicable diseases, including epilepsy.
But even so, it said the care of people with epilepsy is still far from satisfactory.
The international health organisation said this is due to, among other factors, including a deficit of trained medical personnel; the unavailability of medicines, particularly at primary health care (PHC) level; and the lack of information and education on epilepsy, both for those affected by the disorder and their families, as well as for the community as a whole.
PAHO said there are four antiepileptic medicines which are essential for the treatment of the disease.
It said the majority of countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have these drugs, but only througha specialized services.
“This means that access to them is either limited or completely lacking in primary care services,” PAHO said, adding that the provision of basic antiepileptic medicines at the primary care level is “a crucial, effective and low-cost way of addressing the issue, particularly given that, in most cases, episodes can be controlled through treatment with just one of the basic medicines (monotherapy).”
It said its Strategic Fund is a cooperation mechanism for member-countries that promotes access to quality medicines and essential public health supplies at affordable prices.
“Member-states can use it to acquire antiepileptic drugs at better prices, a factor that increases their availability and reduces gaps in access to treatment,” said PAHO, considering epilepsy to be “a priority public health problem.”