Concern grows over Lariam anti-malaria drug side-effects
An investigation has been launched into the safety of an anti-malaria drug prescribed to military personnel. Several law firms are reportedly launching injury claims against the Military on behalf of affected service personnel.
The drug, mefloquine - which is also known as Lariam - has been linked with causing mental health issues. Side-effects of taking the anti-malaria drug include hallucinations, severe depression, sleep deprivation and anxiety. Many personnel have reported experiencing disturbing dreams and vivid hallucinations.
The investigation was opened following a campaign from Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer, a former Army Officer and Afghanistan veteran. The campaign Committee wrote to Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, requesting assurances over the distribution of mefloquine to those serving overseas. The committee called the reported side-effects of the drug "deeply disturbing".
"The risks outweigh the benefits"
Nearly 1000 British troops have been treated for psychiatric side-effects after being prescribed the anti-malaria drug. It is increasingly argued that the risks outweigh the benefits, as army personnel regularly take the medication for months at a time. A growing number of personnel are seeking advice from lawyers on how to claim compensation for the side-effects.
The Ministry of Defence has argued that it is following the medical advice of Public Health England, and that the drug is necessary to protect people from life-threatening malaria. Lariam is used by civilians and military personnel around the world and is only prescribed following individual risk assessments. However, there are a number of alternative anti-malaria drugs available which have not been found to cause the same side-effects.
Philipa Tuckman, a military law solicitor, said:
"it's absolutely clear that... if you're being given treatment you need to have the consequences explained and reasonable alternatives need to be explained to you."
"If you're not having that discussion, you haven't given proper consent."
Medical experts from the UK, the US and Australia have argued that Lariam should not be prescribed to military personnel serving in environments where they need to be fully alert, as the side-effects could put them and their fellow soldiers at increased risk. United States Special Operations banned the use of Lariam on troops in 2013. The committee have asked what the government is going to do to reassess the safety of the drug.