The economic burden of epilepsy in Bhutan

the Bhutan Epilepsy Project

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To assess the economic impact of epilepsy in Bhutan, a lower-middle-income country with a universal health care system, but with limited access to neurological care. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of patients with epilepsy at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital from January to August 2016. Data were collected on clinical features, cost of care, impact of epilepsy on school or work and household economic status of participants and matched comparisons (a sibling or neighbour from a household without epilepsy). Results: A total of 172 individuals were included in the study (130 adults and 42 children). One-third of adults and 20 (48%) children had seizures at least once per month. Mean direct out-of-pocket cost for epilepsy care was 6054 Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN; 91 USD) per year, of which transportation formed the greatest portion (53%). Direct costs of epilepsy were an average of 3.2% of annual household income. Adults missed 6.8 (standard deviation [SD]: 9.0) days of work or school per year on average, and children missed 18.6 (SD: 34.7) days of school. Among adults, 23 (18%) abandoned employment or school because of epilepsy; seven children (18%) stopped school because of epilepsy. Households with a person with epilepsy had a lower monthly per-person income (6434 BTN) than comparison households without epilepsy (8892 BTN; P = 0.027). Conclusions: In Bhutan, despite universal health care services, households of people with epilepsy face a significant economic burden. With many adults and children unable to attend school or work, epilepsy causes a major disruption to individuals’ livelihoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-358
Number of pages17
JournalTropical Medicine and International Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Asia
  • economic burden
  • economic impact
  • epilepsy
  • health systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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