MoD Publishes Response To Defence Committee Lariam Inquiry

Lawyers Say Response Falls Short Of What Is Required To Help Troops Affected

13.09.2016

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The Government has today published its response to a Defence Committee Inquiry into the MoD’s use of the Lariam anti-malaria drug which has been known to cause adverse mental health side effects.

 

The MoD’s use of the anti-malaria drug mefloquine, also called Lariam, has long been criticised with the Defence Committee recommending in May this year that it should only be used as a last resort. The Committee’s report found there was "strong anecdotal evidence" that stringent conditions laid down by the manufacturers for issuing Lariam had been ignored by the armed forces.

 

The specialist armed forces and group actions team at Irwin Mitchell has received over 230 enquires from armed forces personnel affected by mental health issues such as depression, hallucinations and anxiety after taking Lariam.

 

Kevin Timms, an expert lawyer at Irwin Mitchell leading the cases said:

 

Expert Opinion
“While it is encouraging that the MoD is finally making changes to its policies relating to Lariam and anti-malaria drugs, it is extremely disappointing that this response falls short of what is needed following the Defence Committee investigation.

“This official response offers no apology of acknowledgement of the MODs prior failings in prescribing Lariam and we are concerned about whether or not the MoD is taking into account the differences between civilian and military situations. In our view they continue to place too strong a reliance on guidance designed for civilians taking Lariam rather than military personnel. Being in the armed forces is unique and soldiers are put into situations that can cause extreme emotions and stress.

“We welcome that fact that the MoD is revising its anti-malaria policy and changing the checks it carries out before prescribing Lariam but the fact is that this is too little too late for the thousands of people who have already suffered adverse side-effects due to Lariam.

“The new helpline refers veterans to their GP but there are concerns that the advice provided to GPs by the MOD may be inadequate. We know from experience that medical records for armed forces personnel do not always contain details of Lariam prescriptions which could cause problems and potentially lead to misdiagnosis of Lariam related symptoms.

“Nothing can now turn back the clock – but the MoD does have the chance to make changes to ensure no one else suffers, and to ensure those that have already been affected get the help and support they need as soon as possible. For many, the mental health issues suffered have had a significant effect on their lives so prompt action is required.

“We are seeking to engage with the MoD to work collaboratively with them to resolve cases on behalf of former armed forces personnel affected by issues related to Lariam and await their response.”
Kevin Timms, Solicitor

 

Case Studies

 

One former member of the Armed Forces who has struggled with mental health problems since taking Lariam has instructed Irwin Mitchell to help.

 

Mr Ade Jerry, from the Caribbean and currently living in Berkshire, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps of the British Armed Forces from 2006, providing frontline healthcare to serving troops.

 

Mr Jerry’s mental health symptoms started immediately after first taking Lariam in 2008 and while he was on his first tour in Afghanistan. He started to feel constantly low and developed symptoms of depression. He initially thought this was down to being away from friends and family. However, these symptoms persisted until shortly after he left the army in October 2014.

 

Ade Jerry said: “I think Lariam should be outclassed all together. I don’t think there is room for Lariam to be used in the army at all. It’s not a good idea to give a drug to soldiers who are deploying on a tour with a high volatility where giving the drug will just add to the risks of mental health problems that soldiers are already exposed to. It’s not sensible for a drug with the potential to cause such severe injuries to be given to soldiers who are already being placed in difficult and stressful circumstances.

 

"I do think the MoD’s proposals sound good in so far as it’s good that they are finally agreeing to screen people before giving them the drug and that they are giving soldiers more information about the potential risks and side effects of the drug. At least now soldiers can make an informed decision on whether or not to take Lariam and they’ll have a choice on whether to accept the risks of the drug. I never had that choice because I wasn’t given any of that information. I think that’s positive but my views are that Lariam is too dangerous and it should not be given to anyone, least of all to soldiers.”

 

Drum Major Sergeant Daniel Swain took Lariam in 2010 when stationed in Cyprus and has since instructed Irwin Mitchell to help. They had to be ready to be deployed into combat at any minute so they had to take Lariam continuously whilst in Cyprus.

 

Daniel, 36, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, who had served in the British Armed Forces from 1996 to 2013, said:  “I think that as long as soldiers have the opportunity to have a meeting with a doctor or other specialist before they take Lariam then that will help. If they had done that with me at the time I was given Lariam in 2010, then they would have picked up on the fact that I had already had issues with it before and that I was vulnerable because of other events and circumstances in my personal life. If they had correctly followed the guidelines, they wouldn’t have given Lariam to me back then.

 

"I think that as long as they follow the correct guidelines then it shouldn’t be a problem.  I think it will be positive if they give people more knowledge and information of the potential side effects of Lariam so that if people do start experiencing symptoms they know to stop taking the drug and to seek treatment from a doctor immediately.”