The diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy is often handled in a casual "insouciant" manner, with up to 20 per cent of UK epilepsy patients not receiving appropriate drugs, researchers say. Around 30,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy each year, and of these, about one-third can be expected to continue on long-term medication. But researchers from the Institute of Neurology at University College London have found that some epilepsy treatment regimes are outmoded, inappropriate or given too late to be of maximum benefit to patients.
The team monitored the treatment patterns of 564 epilepsy patients for up to 14 years after diagnosis. Their work forms part of the United Kingdom General Practice Study of Epilepsy - a long-term population-based study of the condition.
The researchers found that less than half of epilepsy patients with partial seizures and less than a third with generalised seizures were treated with recommended treatments. Only 11 per cent of patients received the latest medication and 7 per cent had been kept on the same drug despite failing to achieve remission after two years.
UK doctors are reluctant to prescribe drugs to patients who have had one seizure, the researchers say. About 15 per cent of the patients monitored received drugs after their first epileptic seizure, although high rates of recurring seizures meant that more than 75 per cent of the group received treatment at some point.