The UK ministry of Defence (MoD) recently published a so-called ‘mythbusting guide‘ to the use of Lariam in the British forces. The piece written by an unnamed, faceless blogger made a number of false claims, including:
“The [Public Health England Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention (ACMP)] continues to recommend mefloquine’s use, as long as individual risk assessments are undertaken prior to its consumption. Since 2013 it has been Ministry of Defence (MOD) policy that mefloquine is only ever prescribed to Armed Forces personnel after such an assessment.”
Public Health England has since advised The Sunday Express that its advisory committee on malaria protection “does not provide specific advice to any specific occupational groups, including the military”. The MoD’s cowardly attempt to pass the buck to PHE on this important issue was a lie.
Regardless, the very term ‘mythbusting’ implies a lack of rigour on the part of those who have been calling for an end to the use of the neurotoxic drug Lariam in the British forces. Few could be better qualified to address the subject of Lariam neurotoxicity than Dr Jane Quinn, a research neuroscientist and neurotoxicologist from Charles Sturt University in Australia. This is her response to the nameless MoD blogger.
The urban definition of Mythbusting is: “To prove something that is largely believed to be true to be false.”
In the case of the UK Ministry of Defence media blog this means “to insist that many thousands of troops, male and female, from all of the Joint Services, have NOT been knowingly given a potent neurotoxic drug with incidental antimalarial properties, as part of their active service, causing lasting or permanent neurological injury”.
To invoke ‘Mythbusting’ is to fly in the face of the facts: published both by independent medical specialists and scientific researchers, their own medical specialists, the drug company that manufactures and distributes the drug, and the ever increasing numbers of military personnel and civilians affected by mild, moderate and severe long term adverse effects of taking mefloquine for malarial prophylaxis.
Are all these independent witnesses and experts wrong? Is the drug company that sells mefloquine wrong to describe the list of serious neurological side effects, stating that some can be lasting or permanent? Is the drug company also to be suggested to be overly cautious in recommending an individual risk assessment before prescription since 2002, something that the disbelieving MoD only apparently invoked in 2013? After some further 13,000 troops had been administers this drug without adequate oversight? And then is it correct to suggest that all this fuss about long term neurological damage, suicide and destroyed the lives of those who given this drug whilst employed to protect our liberty some kind of media-induced hysteria? No, it is not correct, or acceptable from either a moral or ethical perspective.
Well, if ‘mythbusting’ is the best derogatory word that the MoD could find to attempt to counteract the growing international evidence, to counteract published scientific facts which are independently reviewed and verified, then they should be ashamed.
A true leader of men has said:
- Get the best info you can;
- Decide soon;
- Exercise authentic judgement.
‘Mythbusting’ does none of these. It takes superficial information and makes it truth, it decides too soon that it is right, and ethical and moral judgement does not apply and when lives are at stake this is simply unforgivable.