The development of the Internet and subsequent evolution of social networking has significantly changed the effectiveness of patient advocacy groups for rare diseases. The greatest degree of change has occurred at the patient level, with an increased ability of affected individuals to share experiences and support, and to raise public awareness. Other changes have occurred, not only in the way rare diseases are diagnosed, studied, and treated, but also in how they are addressed at the level of legislation and public policy. The International Dravet syndrome Epilepsy Action League (IDEA League) is the leading patient advocacy organization for Dravet syndrome and related genetic ion-channel epilepsy disorders (hereafter referred to as Dravet syndrome or severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy, SMEI). The IDEA League’s mission encompasses international support and outreach for patients and families, as well as collaboration with physicians, medical education, health care coordination, and research. The IDEA League is an excellent example of the impact of patient advocacy groups, the Internet, and social networking on the landscape of rare diseases.
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