Patients with epilepsy have a difficult life in Lao PDR. Only 10% of the estimated 50,000 patients with epilepsy in Laos are receiving treatment. Traditional beliefs that epilepsy is transmissable through saliva generates fears and attaches stigma to epileptic patients.
Epilepsy is not a contagious disease and cheap treatments exist. Recurrent seizures can be prevented. Some epileptic patients can be cured if they follow appropriate treatment for several years. Phenobarbital, the number one recommended drug, is cheap, effective and available in Laos.
Since 2003, the Francophone Institute of Tropical Medicine (IFMT, Vientiane, Lao PDR) and the Institut d’EpidÃ©miologie neurologique et de Neurologie Tropicale (IENT, Limoges, France) in close collaboration with Lao institutions such as the National Institute of Tropical Health (NIOPH), Ministry of Health (MOH), and provincial and district health authorities, have carried out several studies on epilepsy and people living with epilepsy (PWE) in Lao PDR. The overall aim develop the scientific basis to guide appropriate intervention. The first scientific meeting occurred in January 2008 at IFMT to identify partners wishing to collaborate to decrease the burden of epilepsy in Laos.
The second scientific meeting on epilepsy is being held at IFMT on 27 May 2009 to launch the access to treatment program for epileptic patients in Laos. This program will be conducted by IFMT, with many partners. Scientists, researchers, Lao doctors and MOH officials, neurologists from Malaysia, Laos and France, pharmacists and NGOs will share their experience and coordinate their activities.
The objective of this program is to improve the care of patients with epilepsy in Laos through :
Training of Healthcare professionals
Setting up clinics for epilepsy diagnosis and management
Improving availability and accessibility of AntiEpileptic Drugs (AEDs)
Education of society about epilepsy
Sanofi -Aventis announced that they will provide funding support for three years, making AEDs available through its Access to Medicines program, with a preferential pricing policy. “Support from the International League Against Epilepsy, the University of Malaysia and other institutions will enable us to accelerate the implementation of a national epilepsy care program in Laos”, said Dr Hubert Barennes IFMT research coordinator and head of the program