Madam Speaker, first, I would like to commend the hon. member for Halifax West for introducing this very important bill and, particularly the founder of Purple Day, Cassidy Megan, and her family for their excellent work. This is a great example of involvement and commitment that can bring about change.
I am pleased to participate in a debate on an issue as important as a condition that has such a major impact on Canadians and their families. Unfortunately, I must apologize to those who suffer from epilepsy because our government and we politicians have not done enough.
Let us look at the situation. Today, in 2012, 30% of patients do not respond to the treatments that are currently available. This figure shows how necessary it is to produce new anti-epileptic drugs, improve access to global epilepsy assessment and treatment programs and increase funding for research in this area.
One in four people has seizures that cannot be controlled with anti-epileptic drugs. Surgery is an option for nearly half of these people. Dr. Valiente noted that, in Ontario, 10,000 people with epilepsy could benefit from brain surgery but only 2% have the operation.
According to a briefing note about anti-epileptic drug shortages by the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, drug manufacturers are not in any rush to address the current shortages, which largely affect lower-cost generic drugs with small profit margins. That is shameful. The shortage of drugs used to treat epilepsy can have serious consequences that can reduce the quality of life of those with the condition and even put their lives at risk.
I sympathize with the people who have this illness because this situation is unacceptable and even deplorable. We must take action and that is why I support this bill. Even though this bill does not necessarily focus on access to medication, I support it because it will make Canadians more aware of epilepsy. However, my party is still calling upon the government to deliver concrete results for Canadians in matters of health. Canadians deserve more than empty words. The government can and must do more to help Canadians with epilepsy and their loved ones. The NDP is advocating and asking for this.
Indeed, members opposite and all members of this Parliament are speaking eloquently about the challenges people with epilepsy face, but previous governments had no plan to help these people. I wonder if all members are going to pressure this government to implement measures such as help for caregivers and employment assistance measures for people in difficult situations. We know that a number of people with epilepsy are also under-employed.
Is this government going to take the drug shortage seriously? This shortage has devastating effects on people with epilepsy. Previous Liberal governments were no better. The Liberals were in power for 13 years and had a majority government for 11 of those years. They did not increase public awareness about epilepsy and did not help those with epilepsy fight discrimination, which is still far too common. Purple Day was created in 2008, when the Liberals no longer formed the government.
We know that this condition affects many Canadians and has serious repercussions on their lives and their families' lives. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases in the world and affects almost 300,000 people in Canada and 50 million people worldwide. Epilepsy can also have profound physical, psychological and social repercussions and its impact on quality of life is sometimes worse than other chronic diseases. It is believed that certain factors can contribute to this situation, including the unpredictability of the episodes and the social stigma associated with epilepsy.
People with epilepsy are more likely to have low self-esteem, to be depressed and even to commit suicide. This illness can also have repercussions on a person's education, job opportunities, independence, and the ability to drive or get a driver's licence. These very difficult conditions have to be taken into account by this government and future governments.
More than 30% of patients do not respond to current treatments and suffer unpredictable seizures. This highlights the need to manufacture new anti-epileptic drugs, improve access to comprehensive programs to fight this condition and increase funding for research. We cannot eradicate this illness without research. That is what we on this side of the House and the experts who agree with us are asking for.
Together with the experts, I fully support Purple Day to raise public awareness of epilepsy. The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance and its 25 member organizations are strong supporters of Bill C-278. Dr. Lionel Carmant, director of the epilepsy clinic and the epilepsy research group at Sainte-Justine Hospital and a professor in the pediatrics department at Université de Montreal, fully supports Purple Day. He does not see any other errors in the bill. He also believes that there other opportunities: obtain media coverage for the bill and tackle discrimination against people with epilepsy in the workplace and in other areas of society.
I completely agree with that. The Epilepsy Support Centre in London, Ontario, said that it is critical to build public awareness of epilepsy because people with the illness can face social stigmatization. Information is still the best way to raise public awareness.
Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain also supports the bill wholeheartedly.
Lastly, I would like to remind Canadians of the NDP's position. We support this bill because it would raise awareness among Canadians. We are asking the government to take responsibility for delivering real results for people with epilepsy. The government can and should do more to ensure that medications are available. Let us end the stigmatization of Canadians suffering from this illness.