Defence Select Committee Launches Inquiry Into Use Of Anti-Malaria Drug Lariam

Legal Experts Call For Lariam Guidelines To Be Updated After Side Effect Concerns

17.11.2015

A Defence Select Committee inquiry has been launched into the prescription of anti-malaria drug Lariam to armed forces personal after research found the drug carried a higher risk of depression, anxiety and psychosis compared to other anti-malaria medication.

Dr Julian Lewis MP, the chair of the committee noted that the number of cases of military personnel experiencing these serious side effects was “deeply disturbing”.

Expert Military and Group Action lawyers at law firm Irwin Mitchell have been contacted by a number of armed forces personnel who have experienced some of the side effects after taking Lariam and are investigating the problems they suffered.

The drug, which is manufactured by Roche and also known as Mefloquine, continues to be issued to around 2,500 British armed forces personnel every year.

Dr Frances Nichol, head of drug safety and quality at Roche, admitted to the Defence Select Committee that the drug had worse side effects than other common anti-malarials and warned that it should not be prescribed to personnel with pre-existing conditions.

The manufacturer also confirmed that the use of the drug by the Ministry of Defence had been outside its clear guidelines requiring assessment of individual before Lariam was prescribed.

Dr Nichol told the committee: “Because this is a prescription-only medication - not an over-the-counter drug given out by a pharmacist - it is prescribed in a one-to-one setting with qualified physicians who know how to ask and elicit the appropriate responses from their patients."

The Select Committee questioning confirmed that prescription en mass of Lariam was against Roche guidelines.

Kevin Timms, a specialist group actions lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, leading the case, said:

Expert Opinion
“It is extremely concerning to hear that Lariam was prescribed to armed forces personnel in contradiction to the guidelines set out by the manufacturer.

“It is also concerning to hear that it is widely acknowledged that military personnel are more susceptible to Lariam adverse effects, particularly as the drug is still being prescribed to service personnel by the MoD.

“Clearly further studies on the effect Lariam can have on military personnel are needed and we call upon the MoD to be transparent with the extent to which this has been monitored to date and what steps will be taken going forward to protect the mental health of military personnel.”
Kevin Timms, Solicitor