Lariam (Mefloquine) Side Effects
Coleman Legal LLP has been working to assist individuals affected by the anti-malarial drug Mefloquine (Lariam) in the course of their military careers. Coleman Legal LLP has worked closely with soldiers and veterans pursuing cases on their behalf against the Defence Forces-Department of Defence and has many active cases before the courts.
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Lariam (Mefloquine) side effects
The extreme psychiatric side effects and adverse reactions to Lariam included depression, paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, convulsions, and psychotic behavior. There have been many incidents of suicide and suicidal thoughts in soldiers who had used Lariam as an anti-malarial drug.
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.
Complaint lodged with EU Commission over prescription of unlicensed drug to soldiers
A senior solicitor at Coleman Legal LLP has made a complaint to the European Commission in an effort to stop the Irish Army’s use of controversial anti-malarial drug Lariam.
Norman Spicer claims that the Defence Forces are contravening EU law by prescribing the drug to troops on overseas service without offering any alternative medication.
Lariam (also referred to as Mefloquine) has been connected to serious psychiatric side effects including depression, paranoia and psychotic violence.
It is not licensed in Ireland and so is not available to hospitals or GPs. Some Defence Forces personnel have claimed that it ruined their lives, provoking violent mood swings and suicidal thoughts.
Former soldier Anthony Moore told the Mirror last year that he was living a “Jekyll and Hyde hell” after being prescribed Lariam and had had thoughts of killing his wife.
Mr Spicer told the Sunday Mirror:
“I’ve spoken to soldiers deployed to Mali in the past year who were all prescribed Lariam without being offered an alternative. A close friend of mine advised me the female German medical officer insisted when he arrived in Mali that he and other Irish soldiers take Malarone instead. This was because she was unhappy with the armed soldiers [the Irish] being in the same camp as her German troops while taking Lariam, as she was afraid they would become violent.”
Forty-seven cases concerning the State’s use of Lariam are currently before the courts, with at least 30 more pending. A test case was settled by the State last year on confidential terms without admission of liability. The final bill could run to tens of millions of euros.
Over the usage of the anti-malaria medicine Lariam, a soldier turned lawyer is suing the Irish Army.
Mr Spicer joined the Army on leaving school at the age of 18 and in 2009 received the Security Defence Policy Medal for his service in Chad. But, he told the Sunday Mirror, “I was four months there but can only remember a couple of incidents, the rest was a complete fog. I felt very depressed and had severe memory loss. I’d have really vivid dreams and nightmares waking up thinking I’d just killed someone.”
Mr Spicer’s complaint to the European Commission asserts that EU and Irish law only allow for unlicensed drugs to be prescribed if this is to meet the special needs of the patient. The complaint contrasts this with the blanket authorisation of Lariam in the Irish Defence Forces by the Director of the Medical Corps.
Anti-Malarial drug side effects
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 reactions.”.
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.”
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.
How can Coleman Legal help?
Coleman Legal LLP can help to assess your claim and if suitable, can take your instructions to bring a claim against the relevant authorities. The solicitor handling these claims is Norman Spicer.
Norman is a former member of the Defence Forces who can assist individuals in these claims by coupling his military experience with his legal expertise. Norman has considerable experience with large-scale litigation involving multiple claimants. These types of actions are generally known in other jurisdictions as ‘class-actions’. In Ireland, these cases are known as multi-party cases.
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Lariam Anti-Malarial Drug – Time Line
- Mefloquine developed by the US army during the Vietnam war.
- UK Committee on Safety of Medicines advises doctors to warn patients about the neuropsychiatric risks of taking the drug
Prescribed to Irish Soldiers
- Lariam first prescribed to Irish soldiers for the mission in Eritrea in 2001.
Larium Side Effects
- 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”.
- 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.
Warning by European Medicine Agency
- European Medicines Agency warns of the “predominance of neuropsychiatric adverse reactions” and says Lariam “may increase risk of psychosis and anxiety reactions.”
Lariam Withdrew from Irish Market
Lariam withdrew from the Irish market in July 2016. A spokesperson for Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd said said Lariam remains available in 16 out of 23 European countries.