17 Jan 2020

Neurologists seek answers to epilepsy deaths

From Summer Report, 8:21 am on 17 January 2020

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Neurologists are trying to better understand why people with epilepsy are dying suddenly.

The Chief Coroner has launched an inquiry into whether a switch to a new brand of the lamotrigine epilepsy drug contributed to five deaths last year.

But an author of a study, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, says those deaths could be part of an unde-represented baseline of sudden epilepsy-related deaths each year.

The study co-author, neurologist Peter Bergin of Auckland City Hospital, says his team analysed coroner's data and found there were 166 such sudden deaths in New Zealand in the past decade.

Dr Bergin says he plans to do more research, but says at this stage it's impossible to know whether the recent five deaths are outliers. 

He told our reporter, Rachel Thomas, the true number is probably being underestimated.