Access to brain disorder treatment worsening in EU

The EU spends just over €3 a year per patient on research into brain disorders, while levels of access to treatment in many member states are worsening, a medical conference organised by the European Brain Council (EBC) heard.

The EU spends just over €3 a year per patient on research into brain disorders | Photo credit: Fotolia

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

26 Jun 2017

The conference was given the findings of a new report, 'The value of treatment for brain disorders' (VoT), which highlights the need for more investment into research on neurological and mental diseases and the wide disparities between and within countries relating to treatments, detection and intervention.

The report aims to raise awareness of the 'treatment gap' and the need for more investment in research. 

It shows, for example, that up to 70 per cent of people with epilepsy could become seizure-free with the best treatment currently available.


More than 165 million Europeans are living with brain disorders such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, depression and multiple sclerosis, the Brussels conference was told.

But the burden on national health budgets is staggering, rising to more than €800bn a year in direct and indirect costs such as lost earnings and lost tax revenues, according to the report.

Professor David Nutt, of Imperial College London, is among those strongly criticising the situation.

Nutt, who is President of the European Brain Council, said, "Up to eight out of 10 people affected by brain disorders remain untreated, even though effective treatments exist in many cases. Inequality of access to treatment is a growing problem and knows no borders."

Further comment came from Ann Little, President of the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA), who said, "We must address the treatment gap. Differentiated access to healthcare should no longer exist in 21st century Europe - European citizens have a right to the treatment they need."

The EBC says the Commission has significantly increased funding for research on brain diseases, with €5.3bn ear-marked between 2007 and 2017. This sum, shared between the 165 million sufferers in Europe, works out at €2.48 per person per year, the conference heard.

"In terms of the number of sufferers, this is still a small sum - less than the price of a cup of coffee," added Little.

The report highlights the need for early intervention and detection. Timely intervention brings measurable health gains such as improved survival rates, reduced complications and disability, better quality of life and lower treatment costs, it argues.

In addition to epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis, the VoT report also assesses the full scale of unmet healthcare needs in Europe regarding schizophrenia, headache, stroke, Parkinson's disease, restless legs syndrome (RSL) and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). 

The report includes case studies based on data sets from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia. 

The EBC, a non-profit organisation gathering patient associations, major brain-related societies as well as industries, has now made several recommendations.

These call for more investment in more basic and clinical and translational neuroscientific research and increasing brain disease awareness, patient empowerment and training.

It also wants more done to address prevention and timely intervention.


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