Veterans say report on anti-malaria drug mefloquine downplays side-effects
June 2, 2017
Former soldiers say they were not properly informed of potential hazards, including neurological problems, suicidal thoughts and nightmares
“The main issue of concern is the chronic health effects experienced by the 5,000 personnel given mefloquine and tafenoquine since the early 1990s,” McCarthy said. “Drug regulators including the US Food and Drug Administration warn that mefloquine is able to cause neuropsychiatric side effects that may persist or become permanent.An unpublished government report on an anti-malarial drug given to thousands of Australian soldiers has been criticised by a decorated war veteran for downplaying the drug’s side-effects.
Mefloquine, also known as Lariam, was given to soldiers deployed to Bougainville and Timor-Leste more than 15 years ago as part of clinical trials comparing its efficacy to doxycycline, an antibiotic and the first-line medication for malaria prevention in the Australian defence force.
Since then there have been well-documented questions raised about the consent process for the soldiers involved in the trials, and veterans have said they were not properly informed of mefloquine’s potential side-effects. Veterans have also spoken of symptoms including suicidal thoughts, hallucinations and nightmares which they attribute to being on the drug, sometimes emerging years later. They have accused researchers of downplaying the extent of severe side-effects such as neurological issues.
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