The British Parliament’s Defence Select Committee is publishing its report, “An acceptable risk? The use of Lariam for military personnel” on Tuesday 24 May 2016 at 00.01am.
Embargoed copies of the report will be available to witnesses, including those from Government departments, and the media on Monday 23 May from 9.00 am. Members of the press should contact Alex Paterson on 07917 488 488. read more
“… the response [from Ministry of Defence officials] was a mixture of incomprehension, indifference and sometimes hostility.”
Retired British Army Lieutenant Colonel, Dr Ashley Croft, testimony to the DSC inquiry into the use of Lariam, 8 December 2015 (video).
During the inquiry the Committee heard evidence from Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials, Roche executives, medical experts and mefloquine veterans. These included Dr Ashley Croft, who described his efforts at raising concerns over mefloquine safety to senior MoD officials for many years:
Dr Croft: I agree with my colleague, Dr Nevin. The guidelines can be summarised in one sentence, which is that mefloquine is the least safe of the available anti-malarial regimens currently used, and the Roche representatives came out with that statement when they gave evidence here four weeks ago. Whether that statement is in the guidelines, I do not know. I think that the guidelines give a lot of information about side effects, but do they actually spell it out as simply as that, that this is the least safe drug you can take to prevent malaria?
Q95 Chair: How widely recognised would you say that statement is?
Dr Croft: It is documented from a randomised control trial carried out in international travellers and reported in 2001—the Overbosch study. It was a very late study because the drug had already been used on travellers for more than 20 years, and the study proved without doubt that mefloquine is the least safe of the drugs, and causes neuro-psychiatric effects in travellers at a greater level than equivalent medication—in that case they were comparing it to Malarone.
Q96 Chair: You were professionally in the military in this capacity, so is this a point that you ever raised with the Ministry of Defence?
Dr Croft: I raised it constantly, and the response was a mixture of incomprehension, indifference and sometimes hostility.
Q97 Chair: Why do you think there is that determination or, if you like, denial of what you say is a widely recognised assessment of the risks of the drug?
Dr Croft: As you said yourself, Mr Chairman, four weeks ago, this position seems to be contrary to reason. It is not a position than anyone in a reasonable world would take, to be giving soldiers the least safe drug to prevent malaria. So that is a question you would have to put to those who have adopted this illogical and irrational position. read more
Jonathan Owen, Lariam: Medical experts condemn MoD for giving soldiers anti-malarial drug with psychiatric side effects, The Independent, 9 December 2015.
Sarah Waddington, Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer steps up his fight to ban anti-malaria drug, Plymouth Herald, 8 December 2015.
Larisa Brown, Malaria pill for forces is a risk, admit drug chiefs: Controversial treatment found to increase risk of depression, anxiety and psychosis, Daily Mail, 11 November 2015.
Jonathan Owen, Lariam: Inquiry to be held into MoD’s use of anti-malaria drug on British soldiers amid health concerns, The Independent, 15 October 2015.
Sima Kotecha, Answers sought over Army’s use of malaria drug mefloquine, BBC Today, 9 September 2015.
Marco Gianangelli, Thousands to sue MoD over anti-malaria drug, Sunday Express, 6 September 2015.
Jonathan Owen, Lariam: MoD should stop giving soldiers drug which can induce psychosis, says MP, The Independent, 18 August 2015.