Australian Army Malaria Institute Trial of Tafenoquine with 3 RAR Personnel in Timor Leste, February 2000

During the period 1999-2001 the Australian Army Malaria Institute (AMI) conducted a series of tafenoquine drug trials involving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed on peacekeeping operations. The published trial reports include those involving members of the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville and the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) in Timor Leste. Reports on several other AMI tafenoquine trials remain unpublished.

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3 RAR troops meet Prime Minister John Howard before deploying to Timor Leste in September 1999

Tafenoquine is now known to be neurotoxic, with scientists at the U.S. Walter Reed Army Institute of Research having found in 2009 that “tafenoquine is more neurotoxic than mefloquine”. Many of the ADF survivors of the AMI tafenoquine trials have since been afflicted by serious neuropsychiatric illnesses consistent with chronic quinoline toxicosis, similar to the experiences of thousands of mefloquine veterans. One of the survivors of the 1 RAR tafenoquine trial in 2000-01 recently wrote a personal account of his psychoses, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and the rejection of his disability claim by the Veterans Review Board after being medically discharged by the Army:

I was put on leave and sent home to be treated as my family tried to piece together what was happening. My memory of this time is hazy as I was heavily sedated and physically unable to get out of bed at times from the medication. After four or five visits to a psychiatrist I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I didn’t know what that was and to this day I think doctors have a hard time understanding it themselves but the diagnosis lead me to understand that my future in the services was over. I lived and breathed the Army so this was very hard to take. The day I was told that I would be medically discharged was probably the most I’ve ever felt ashamed and lost.

Prior to the 1 RAR trial, tafenoquine was also tested on a group of 3 RAR soldiers returning to Australia from Timor Leste. This was a similar to the trial conducted in Bougainville the previous year, in which “volunteers” were administered very high doses of tafenoquine over a three day period, as an alternative to the registered drug primaquine. The results of this 3 RAR trial are unpublished, but its conduct is mentioned in a series of journal articles on the history of AMI:

The deployment of the ADF to Timor Leste … commencing in September 1999, provided a further opportunity to assess the value of tafenoquine in another area with falciparum and vivax malaria. Volunteers from the Third Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment preparing to return to Australia following InterFET service in February 2000, were randomly allocated to receive a 3-day tafenoquine course (either 400mg or 200mg daily) or the standard 14-day primaquine course. As observed in Bougainville, comparable episodes of vivax malaria were documented over the ensuing 12 months in the 3 groups of volunteers.

The Australian Mefloquine and Tafenoquine Veterans group has asked us to share this information with 3 RAR veterans from this period. They would like to hear from those who experienced adverse effects from tafenoquine as a result of this trial. Please see our contacts page.

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Related Stories

Channel Seven Television, Trial outrage, Local News Townsville, 14 March 2016.

Rachel Riley, Families call for answers, Townsville Bulletin, 14 March 2016.

Jesse Dorsett, Former soldiers, families face military officials in Townsville over anti-malaria drug side effects, ABC News, 14 March 2016.

Lydia Kellner, Top medic says ADF has ‘nothing to hide’ over controversial drug trials, Townsville Bulletin, 12 March 2016.

Ross Eastgate, A soldier’s lost warTownsville Bulletin, 29 February 2016.

Lydia Kellner, Side effects of two drugs used during defence trials to be discussed at national health seminar, Townsville Bulletin19 February 2016.

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About IMVAlliance.org

An international network of military veterans, families and friends affected by the health impacts of the neurotoxic antimalarial drug, mefloquine.
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4 Responses to Australian Army Malaria Institute Trial of Tafenoquine with 3 RAR Personnel in Timor Leste, February 2000

  1. Gaynor Ilicic says:

    I am fighting to find out what they did to my son I have written to the defence minister and the opposition. I want some answers my son is struggling a nod is on medication for the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Scientific Misconduct in the Australian Army Malaria Institute’s Clinical Trials of Tafenoquine – Part 1 – International Mefloquine Veterans' Alliance

  3. Thankyou Gaynor. Are you able to tell us which unit/s your son served in, the locations and years?

    Like

  4. Danielle says:

    My ex husband returned in February 2000 and was part of the three day trial. Three things of note –

    1. I fell pregnant straight away but unfortunately had to be induced mid term on the 1st July as my baby was found to have a severe birth defect. This was surprising as I was in my 20’s and I’d had three healthy boys previously. I have gone onto have 2 more children perfectly healthy and one was in my 30’s. I was never able to get conclusive evidence of it being what my ex-husband had taken as the tissues samples taken from my baby were put on ice and therefore ruined.
    2. My ex-husband then went on to still develop malaria in the July 5 months after his return and again another 6 months after that.
    3. My ex-husband was not the same man who went overseas when he returned. His depression, violence and the complete up and down stability destroyed our marriage. You never knew what you would get. One minute violent, the next depressed and then the next the greatest guy. I could see he didn’t know what was wrong with himself and why he was so up and down and all over the place.
    This drug didn’t just effect the soldiers themselves but their families. What my children and I went through is not right and hold the army completely and solely responsible for what ultimately became the breakdown of my marriage. At the very least there needs to be a proper enquiry into the drug and the defence force, where all our stories are taken down – not just the soldiers but families whose lives were also destroyed.

    Liked by 1 person

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