Evidence of meeting #29 for Health in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was epilepsy.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Iris Elliott  Executive Director, Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia
  • Aurore Therrien  Member of the Board Directors, Executive Director, Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain, Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
  • Sarah Ward  As an Individual

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

That's an important question. It was asked of me by the Brain Injury Association of Canada. The cause is preventable, mainly because if we had appropriate CSA-approved helmets, we could prevent what we now know are concussions that go on and on as people play a sport—they ski, toboggan, or whatever. They think they may be protected by current helmets on the market, but we now know those helmets could be as useful as wearing a toque for the amount of protection they give.

I know we've seen it in the case of Sidney Crosby when we've looked at hockey. Everyone used to think it was machismo not to wear a helmet, and we now know that this is a preventable injury. We know acquired brain injury has something to do with Alzheimer's. I do know that it is one of the etiological factors in epileptic seizures.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Thank you so much.

We're just about out of time, Dr. Fry, so I think I'll go to Mr. Brown and Mr. Strahl. You're sharing your time, I understand. We'll begin with Mr. Brown.

February 16th, 2012 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Thank you.

As some of the other questions have said, Geoff, this bill is a great idea and I thank you for putting it forward. I think of Jeffrey White, who runs the local epilepsy chapter in my riding and has done some great work fundraising for epilepsy. I look forward to voting in favour of this bill on his behalf. I know you are a fellow hockey player; Jeffrey did a hockey fundraiser in Barrie to help raise awareness. Obviously, this bill will raise awareness, and that's why it's helpful.

Is there anything you wanted to add about the benefits of this bill that you haven't been able to mention so far in your allocated time?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, I don't think so, but since Mr. Brown has mentioned our mutual enjoyment of hockey, I want to tell you that we obviously do wear helmets when we play. I'm sad to say that Mr. Brown gives the Conservative team a big advantage. I can recall the last time we played. I thought I had a two-on-oh; the other player and I were racing toward the net, when out of the blue from behind me, at some incredible speed, came Mr. Brown, and took the puck away. I did manage to get a couple of goals in that game, I think, but he usually scores a bunch, a handful of goals.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Mr. Brown, do you have anything epilepsy-related?

9:35 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

No. I just want to say that I think this is a great initiative. You mentioned the young girl in your riding. I know that in every city in every riding in the country there are young Canadians for whom this bill will make a big difference. Thanks for the great initiative.

I have no hard or pressing questions because I think you're going to find universal support from your colleagues on what is a positive initiative.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Strahl.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you, Geoff, for the bill. I am a Vancouver Canucks fan, and even though you are a Boston Bruins fan, I will be voting in favour of the bill. Quite by accident, I did wear a purple tie today; I think there's even some lavender in there too, so my version of the tie is bilingual.

I have a friend who has epilepsy. He underwent surgery after many years. It was experimental surgery at the time and it greatly relieved the symptoms he faced. He spoke about his time in high school when he was on medication. He had just enough energy to get through to the end of the day and then he would go home to sleep, because the side effect was severe drowsiness, I assume to try to keep things under control. This was 20 years ago.

Have there been any improvements in the pharmaceuticals available for people with epilepsy, or are they the same treatments that have been around for a number of years?

9:40 a.m.

As an Individual

Sarah Ward

There have been some improvements. Some of the newer drugs have fewer side effects, but most of them still do have at least some side effects. Phenytoin, or Dilantin, isn't a newer drug, but it's one of the more common drugs. It doesn't cause the person to be drowsy, but it causes a lot of other side effects. It can cause facial hair growth in women and it can cause pretty severe gum overgrowth. I don't know all the medications, but I know there has been some improvement. With more research, there will be more improvement.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, if I'm not mistaken, some epilepsy drugs have been among the drugs for which there have been shortages. You've probably looked at this issue as a committee, or heard about it. When a drug suddenly goes out of production for a period of time, from what I've heard--and I'm sure you have heard it as well--it can have a great impact on patients, who normally would need time to shift gradually from one drug to another but don't have time to do that in the case of a sudden shortage.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Mr. Strahl, is that the end of your questions?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I'm good. Thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Before we go into the second round, with the permission of the committee, there's just one question I have.

Like you, Mr. Regan, I had a student in grade 9 who had three seizures a day, and if I remember correctly, they were called grand mal. I'm wondering if someone on the committee could describe that type of seizure. You described how someone looks into space or picks at their clothes or whatever, but can you also describe, first of all, what a seizure looks like? Some people have not seen a seizure, and it's very scary when you first see one, especially if it's a grand mal seizure. As well, can you describe what to do? I remember that as a teacher I was told by someone, “Oh, Mrs. Smith, grab a belt and put it between his teeth.” I didn't think that was very good, so I didn't do it; I just cleared the way around him. That was before I had information about what I really should do; fortunately, it wasn't too far from what I really should have done.

Could you go into that a little bit? Let's say that while walking home or whatever, you see someone who is having a seizure. What does it look like and what should you do? I ask because many well-intentioned people injure people they're trying to help.

Who would like to respond? Okay, Ms. Therrien, go ahead.

9:40 a.m.

Member of the Board Directors, Executive Director, Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain, Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Aurore Therrien

You can also ask Ms. Iris Elliott that question, because she wanted to say something about it too.

There are different kinds of seizures. There is the family of generalized seizures, the first of which is called the absence seizure. Absence seizures are not really visible; they are characterized by small losses of consciousness, of which there can be many in the course of a day. They may not disturb people close by, but this kind of seizure can be a great disruption to the life of a child or an adult.

There are also simple partial and complex partial seizures. Simple partial seizures have involuntary movements, as you mentioned earlier. So the person can move, do common actions like getting up and walking around, but there is no context. So they can pull at their clothes and move around. In a simple partial seizure, the person is conscious, whereas in a complex partial seizure, the person is completely unconscious. A complex partial seizure can become more generalized. It can be the beginning of a seizure called the aura. Lastly, I think that everyone knows about the convulsive seizure, which can take different forms. The person suddenly loses consciousness, falls to the ground and goes into convulsions. For people who have complex partial seizures—the ones you were talking about—I think…