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Epilepsy NZ welcomes further research into causes of sudden unexpected deaths

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand Medical Journal today published the results of a retrospective review of coroners’ reports of people who have died of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy or SUDEP in New Zealand between 2007 and 2016.

SUDEP is a devastating complication of epilepsy that affects a small number of people with epilepsy. The reasons that some people die from SUDEP are unclear., but every death is tragic.

Since the release of the report, media attention has focused largely on whether PHARMAC’s brand switching for the anti-seizure medication Lamotrigine has been identified as a factor in causing SUDEP.

One of the report’s authors, Dr Peter Bergin, who is also President of Epilepsy New Zealand notes the five recent deaths potentially linked to the brand switch were not included in the review which was a retrospective study over the ten years 2007 to 2016.

Epilepsy New Zealand CEO Ross Smith says, "It’s natural for the epilepsy community to want answers to these recent deaths but this review was never intended to provide that. What is significant is the next phase of the research which is a prospective study to determine the true incidence of SUDEP in New Zealand, and to try to learn more about the causes"

"Epilepsy New Zealand has struggled to attract research funding so we are really pleased the Neurological Foundation and the Auckland Medical Research Foundation have come to the party to fund this next phase of the research", says Mr Smith.

"So little is known about the true burden of this condition on all aspects of society in New Zealand and with the right amount of funding we could explore in greater detail some of the matters raised in the SUDEP review, for example the high number of people who were unemployed and who died from SUDEP (44%) and a potential link between deprivation and mortality in New Zealand."

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