Epilepsy is commonly viewed as a reason for annulling marriages in India and nearly 80% of the people with this neurological condition live in low and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
The global health body, in a document released on Epilepsy Day on Monday, said around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. About three-fourth of those with this condition living in low and middle-income countries like India do not get the care they need due to what is called “treatment gap”.
“In both China and India, epilepsy is commonly viewed as a reason for prohibiting or annulling marriages,” the organisation said, adding people with this condition respond to treatment approximately 70% of the time.
“In many low and middle-income countries, there is low availability of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). A recent study found the average availability of generic anti-epileptic medicines in the public sector of low and middle-income countries to be less than 50%. This may act as a barrier to accessing treatment,” it said.
WHO said an Indian study conducted in 1998 calculated that the cost of epilepsy treatment per patient was as high as 88.2% of the country’s per capita Gross National Product (GNP) and epilepsy-related costs, which included medical, travel expenditure and lost work time exceeded $2.6 billion per year.
Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disorder of the brain that affects people of all ages and in many parts of the world. People with epilepsy and their families suffer from stigma and discrimination.
Approximately, 50 million people currently suffer from epilepsy worldwide. The estimated proportion of the general population with active epilepsy at a given time is between 4 and 10 per 1,000 people, the global health body said.
“However, some studies in low and middle-income countries suggest that the proportion is much higher, between 7 and 14 per 1,000 people. Globally, an estimated 2.4 million people are diagnosed with epilepsy each year. In high-income countries, annual new cases are between 30 and 50 per 1,00,000 people in the general population. In low and middle-income countries, this figure can be up to two times higher,” the WHO said.