Australian veterans have today welcomed the release of UK Parliamentary report: ‘An acceptable risk? – the use of Lariam for military personnel’ confirming the Ministry of Defence had prescribed the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine to thousands of troops without proper medical supervision.
The Australian Quinoline Veterans and Families Association (QVFA) Scientific Advisor Dr Jane Quinn said the UK has now joined Australia in admitting that mefloquine had been given to troops without medical supervision or subsequent clinical follow up for manufacturer acknowledged neuropsychiatric side effects.
“The UK report follows recent admissions by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that their troops were also given the drug without proper prescribing practices. Subsequently many now require long term specialist clinical care as a result,” Dr Quinn said.
“What remains to be seen now is a rehabilitation program for those veterans with acquired brain injuries resulting from the use of mefloquine during their service.”
“Affected veterans and their families are eager to work with the government to find a way forward. Tangible and pragmatic support could be made very quickly.”
“The QVFA remains optimistic following recent talks with the government and the ongoing support of peak veteran advocacy body, the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations, that our calls for a dedicated rehabilitation program for veterans are finally being taken seriously. This has given new hope to hundreds of veterans and their families who make up our group,” Dr Quinn said.
A growing body of compelling international scientific research now acknowledges that mefloquine can cause both long-term and permanent neuropsychiatric side effects, causing permanent brain injury in some people.
Dr Quinn said Canadian and Irish veterans also affected by mefloquine are now hopeful their governments will also make similar admissions to end institutional denial and now focus on veteran rehabilitation.
Following the ADF’s 2001-02 East Timor antimalarial drug trials numerous reports emerged that participants had experienced neuropsychiatric side effects, consistent with the manufacturer’s warnings.
Subsequently hundreds of veteran drug trial participants report long-term mental health issues. Few veterans, if any, have received proper care or support for their mefloquine-related illness. Most recently, some have suicided, either as a direct result of mefloquine use or an indirect result of inadequate care.