Serious concerns over the safety of mefloquine (Lariam™) have not been limited to veterans, travellers or other consumers who have been adversely affected by the drug’s neurotoxic side effects. For many years, shareholders of the multinational Swiss manufacturer of the drug – Roche – have raised repeated concerns to the board over the harm that the drug is doing to the company’s reputation and the financial risks of legal action. Here are some of the concerns raised by shareholders documented in the minutes of the company’s annual general meetings.
“Referring to the numerous patient interest groups on the Internet, Ms Eva Monecke of Saarbrücken asked whether Roche had recorded provisions for possible future litigation relating to side effects associated with the malaria drug LARIAM. The Chairman stressed that the LARIAM package leaflet contained appropriate warnings about the drug’s side effects and added that to date none of the suits that had been filed had resulted in a judgement against Roche.”
Roche, Minutes of the 2005 Annual General Meeting, 28 February 2005
“Mr Mamadi Keita of Basel … said that LARIAM did not fit in with Roche’s image. He asked why LARIAM was still being prescribed even though other, less dangerous drugs existed that were just as effective or even more effective and comparable in cost, and whether the profits from the sale of LARIAM justified the risks involved. He asked whether Roche was prepared for the eventuality of the courts or politicians one day deciding in favour of the victims.”
Roche, Minutes of the 2007 Annual General Meeting, 5 March 2007
“Ms Eva Monecke from Saarbrücken took the floor to ask about financial provisions set aside by Roche. She said that British scientist Ashley Croft, in a paper entitled Healthy people need safe drugs too, had advanced the view that at least one pivotal pre-approval study for the anti-malarial drug LARIAM had not taken place. She said that as far as she was aware, neither the manufacturer nor the regulators had officially denied this assertion. Ms Monecke asked the Chairman what provisions had been made in respect of LARIAM, and what action it proposed to take in future.”
Roche, Minutes of the 2008 Annual General Meeting, 4 March 2008
Marco Gianangelli, Thousands to sue MoD over anti-malaria drug, Sunday Express, 6 September 2015.
Shane Phelan, Defence legal bill will hit €5m as Lariam cases begin to mount, Independent.ie, 21 August 2014.
Mark Tighe, First pay-out over drug blamed for soliders’ suicides, The Times, 14 October 2015.
Sheila Pratt, Stop pretending mefloquine was used safely on soldiers: former top Canadian drug bureaucrat, Ottawa Citizen, 7 February 2016.
Rebecca Trigger, Growing call for judicial inquiry as soldiers in anti-malaria drug trial hit ‘brick wall’, ABC News, 11 December 2015.
Brendan Nicholson, Army braces for suit on malaria drug, The Age, 25 October 2004.