LARIAM (MEFLOQUINE) PERSONAL INJURY

The anti-malaria drug Lariam (mefloquine) has been used by the Defence Forces in Ireland over the past number of years, prescribed to soldiers serving abroad in countries such as Chad and Western Sahara for the Irish Defence Forces.

There were up to 30 personal injury legal actions taken against the State by August 2014 linked to Lariam, with 18 sets of High Court proceedings served at that time.  This number continues to rise.

The soldiers involved in the actions alleged they suffered personal injury as a result of taking the drug while serving overseas with the Irish Defence Forces.

The use of Lariam has become increasingly controversial over the past decade, with the manufacturers, Roche, revising its safety information about Lariam to list insomnia, anxiety and depression as possible side effects.  The company also stated that hallucinations, psychosis, self-harm and suicide have been reported.

Lariam was taken off the Irish market in 2016 for “commercial reasons”.

A number of Irish soldiers have reported having suicidal thoughts and have had to receive counselling or treatment with anti-depressants.

LONG TERM SIDE EFFECTS OF LARIAM

Andrew Bryce is suing Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd, the Tropical Medical Bureau and a medical doctor for damages for allegedly failing to warn him of all of the side-effects of anti-malarial drug Lariam.The extreme psychiatric side effects and adverse reactions to Lariam have included depression, paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, convulsions and psychotic behaviour.  There have been many incidents of suicide in soldiers who had been prescribed Lariam as an anti-malarial.

The drug affects the brain more quickly than getting into the bloodstream (which is the target for anti-malarial activity) and it can stay in the body for many weeks after the user has stopped taking it.   Lariam can cross the blood/brain barrier and build up in fatty tissue, where it is neuro-toxic and can kill nerve cells and interfere with signals that control basic human emotions.

Dr. Remington Nevin a former US Army Major stated that the “acute effects” of Lariam use can last up to ten years after

The European Medicines Agency warned in 2014 of  the “predominance of neuropsychiatric adverse reactions” to the drug, and Public Health England stated that Lariam “may increase risk of psychosis and anxiety ractions.”.

Lariam was withdrawn from the Irish market in July 2016, however it remains available in up to 16 European countries.

In a statement, Roche, the manufacturers of Lariam, said:

“Pharmaceutical companies regularly undertake portfolio reassessments of the products. Roche has an extensive portfolio of 40 products and, following a recent portfolio reassessment, it decided to discontinue four products in Ireland: Lariam, Rocaltrol, Roferon-A and Vascace. Lariam was discontinued on 31st July 2016.”

Source: Irish Examiner 18/09/2016

ANTHONY COLE LITIGATION

The first High Court action by a soldier against Minister for Defence and the Attorney General for prescribing Lariam, an anti-malarial drug, has recently been settled.  Anthony Cole, a  former Irish Army Sergeant with 30 years’ service, brought a High Court action against the Minister for Defence and the state for prescribing him Lariam when he served in Chad in 2009 while on a UN tour of duty.

Mr Cole was prescribed Lariam for two weeks prior to travelling to Chad, for the duration of his tour, and for several weeks when he returned to Ireland.

The drug, whose active ingredient is mefloquine, is said by its manufacturer Roche to be capable of causing serious side effects including mental health problems such as severe anxiety, depression, hallucinations and paranoia. It should not be prescribed for anyone who has suffered a head injury or had previous mental-health issues.

RTÉ’s Prime Time carried out an investigation into the use of Lariam as an anti-malarial by the Irish Defence Forces in 2013, and found a “plausible link” between the drug and a number of suicides of soldiers or former soldiers in the Defence Forces.

The Prime Time programme revealed new research showing a higher risk of suicide among members of the army who had taken Larium during their deployments overseas than those who didn’t.

“These figures are consistent with Lariam causing symptoms of mental illness including anxiety and depression, and are also consistent with the known association of these conditions with a strongly increased risk of suicide. These figures also indicate evidence of more serious events, such as psychosis, potentially leading to more sudden and impulsive suicides,”

said Dr Remington Nevin, an epidemiologist and former US Army major.

TIMELINE

1970s – Mefloquine developed by the US army during the Vietnam war.

1989 – Approved for use in the UK and US.

1996 – UK Committee on Safety of Medicines advises doctors to warn patients about the neuropsychiatric risks of taking the drug

2001 – First randomised, controlled trial of the drug in a mixed population of general travellers reveals that more than two-thirds reported side effects, and in six per cent of cases they were severe

2001 – Lariam first prescribed to Irish soldiers for the mission in Eritrea in 2001.

2002 – A US Food and Drug Administration safety alert warns of reactions including depression, paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, convulsions and psychotic behaviour.

2007 – The former Roche chairman Dr Franz B Humer tells the company AGM that “more effective antimalarials with better side-effect profiles were now available, and these were generally used”.

2009 – Roche took Lariam off the US market,and the US Army made mefloquine a “drug of last resort”.

2013 – The Independent reveals how the MoD continues to use Lariam, during a year in which the US army declares it a drug of last resort which is banned by its special forces, and the US FDA issues a “black box” warning over its psychiatric side-effects. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency strengthens warnings on side-effects.

2014 – European Medicines Agency warns of the “predominance of neuropsychiatric adverse reactions” and Public Health England releases similar guidance and says Lariam “may increase risk of psychosis and anxiety reactions.”

2016 – Lariam withdrawn from the Irish market in July 2016. A spokesperson for Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd said the decision regarding Lariam was based on a portfolio reassessment and did not relate to pending legal cases. She said Lariam remains available in 16 out of 23 European countries.

LARIAM (MEFLOQUINE) PERSONAL INJURY

If you have been adversely affected after taking Lariam, you can contact us to discuss the matter further on 01-5313800 or email Norman Spicer at norman@colemanlegalpartners.ie for further information.


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