Thank you for contacting me about epilepsy.
It is vital that our NHS supports people affected by epilepsy, estimated at between 362,000 and 415,000 across England, to live healthy, independent lives. Prompt diagnosis, treatment and seizure control are key to achieving high quality outcomes for patients with epilepsy, which is why I welcome the action taken to deliver this.
Guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) set out best practice for treating patients with epilepsy. These include recommendations that people having a first seizure should be screened and referred to a specialist, helping to establish early diagnosis of epilepsy. I am glad that NICE is in the process of updating these guidelines to ensure that they remain consistent with new evidence regarding epilepsy.
I am encouraged that with proper treatment, most people with epilepsy can be helped to have fewer seizures, and in some cases no seizures at all. Anti-epileptic drugs are the most commonly used treatment for epilepsy, which can help to control seizures in about 70 per cent of people. A two-stage review into the use of cannabis for medical purposes has also been announced, which could help alleviate symptoms of those living with epilepsy still further.
With regard to tuberous sclerosis complex and the drug everolimus, I completely understand the frustration that this drug is not currently funded by the NHS. I am glad that NHS England will reconsider the issue of funding everolimus in November, a process which I will follow closely.
Government funding for medical research through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) also helps to develop new ways to diagnose and treat those with epilepsy. As I understand, the NIHR is currently funding seven active projects focusing on epilepsy, with a total value of over £9.9 million. In June, the NIHR also launched a global health call to fund research into three areas, one of which is epilepsy. I am hopeful these projects will help improve the everyday lives of those living with epilepsy across our country.