Neurology Awareness and Research Foundation (NARF) and Epilepsy Foundation Pakistan (EFP) jointly conducted a press conference, where experts discussed the challenges faced by Pakistan’s 2 million epilepsy patients.
The two organizations conducted a survey which indicated that patients suffering from epilepsy are subject to significant social stigma, including social isolation and discrimination. Women and children, in particular, face challenges in forming social connections and attending school. Despite the fact that 70% of patients who receive proper treatment can have a seizure-free life, the social exclusion of these patients continues to persist.
Epilepsy is more prevalent in Pakistan than in the rest of the world, affecting up to 2% of the population. In rural areas, the disease is more prevalent than in urban areas. The disease is most commonly diagnosed in individuals under the age of 30.
Like other chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma, epilepsy requires continuous medication and proper treatment. However, superstitions and myths about the disease further impact patients, making it difficult for women with epilepsy to get married or maintain relationships, as well as for any patient to find employment or gain a higher education.
Furthermore, the availability of cost-effective medications remains a significant challenge for patients. The shortage or unavailability of affordable medicines often results in patients and their families having to bear the burden of purchasing expensive treatments. This not only delays treatment but also places additional financial strain on patients and their families.
At the press conference, the experts called on the government to provide drug subsidies and to ensure that patients have access to affordable, high-quality medicines. They also highlighted that brain infections, head injuries, high blood pressure, sugar and salt intake, alcohol use, and early childhood illnesses and oxygen shortage can trigger epilepsy.
Finally, the participants emphasized the need to continue educating society about epilepsy and to eliminate stigma and discrimination against people suffering from epilepsy. The goal is to ensure that all individuals with epilepsy have access to proper treatment and support to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.