28 Oct 2020

Treating epilepsy more effectively yields high individual, social and economic returns

Dr Emma Foster and A/Prof Zanfina Ademi explain how treating
epilepsy greatly reduces its health economic burden. See video

New data from Monash University reveal the enormous cost of epilepsy in Australia – costing more than 14,000 excess deaths up to age 70 years, $32.4 billion of lost gross domestic product (GDP), and $4.1 billion in direct healthcare costs. 

The researchers also showed that a 10% improvement in the treatment of seizures in patients with the disease would save the economy a staggering $1.1 billion in direct health care costs and A$7.8 billion in GDP over the working lifetime of people with epilepsy.

The study is the first to look at the health economic burden of epilepsy in Australia, and the first study in the world to quantify the productivity burden in terms of GDP lost due to epilepsy.

The research, led by Dr Emma Foster and Associate Professor Zanfina Ademi from respectively Monash University's Department of Neuroscience in the Central Clinical School, and the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, was recently published in the journal, Neurology. They found that epilepsy impacts Australia’s GDP by more than $32 billion, due to years of life lost and impaired ability to work.

Importantly, the study also found that reducing the number of patients who experience ongoing seizures by as little as 10% leads to:

  • $1.1 billion savings to the national health bill
  • Prevention of 1,633 excess deaths and 7,953 years of life saved. for Australians of working age with epilepsy followed to age 70 years. 
  • Equates to $7.8 billion GDP retained

According to Professor Terry O’Brien, Head of Monash University’s Central Clinical School and Deputy Director of Research at Alfred Health, even small improvements in seizure freedom can greatly improve the burden of epilepsy in Australia. 

Professor O’Brien will discuss how further research into epilepsy – including into the causes of sudden death in epilepsy, which kills 100 Australians without warning every year, in public lecture on 29 October at 6 pm. (detail at www.monash.edu/news/events/2020-central-clinical-school-public-lecture). 

Sudden Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is defined as the sudden and unexpected, non-traumatic and non-drowning death of a person with epilepsy, SUDEP most often affects people with poorly controlled convulsive “tonic-clonic” seizures. In these patients, medicines or other treatments, do not bring their seizures under control, or people who do not take their epilepsy medications.

Professor O’Brien will discuss a growing body of evidence that shows that people who suffer from epileptic seizures are also at risk of suffering from atrial fibrillation - an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of strokes, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. He will discuss new treatment and preventive options for SUDEP and other conditions associated with epilepsy.

See more about the cost of epilepsy research:

Foster E, Chen Z, Zomer E, Rychkova BBioMed M, Carney P, O'Brien TJ, Liew D, Jackson GD, Kwan P, Ademi Z. The costs of epilepsy in Australia: A productivity-based analysis. Neurology. 2020 Sep 15:10.1212/WNL.0000000000010862. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010862.  

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