Specialist Military Lawyer Says MoD Lariam Stats Are Misleading

Specialist Lawyers Respond To Latest MoD Figures

22.09.2016

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist lawyers representing British armed forces personnel affected by mental health issues after taking the anti-malarial drug Lariam have slammed the MoD’s recent figures as being inaccurate and misleading.

The MoD has responded to recent criticism of its actions in prescribing Lariam, also known as mefloquine, to troops by releasing statistics on the number of people prescribed Lariam who also presented to specialist mental health doctors in the MoD.

However lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who have spoken with almost 300 people affected say the statistics are inaccurate and misleading because of issues with the recording of lariam use on medical records and the date range of the latest figures.

The statistics show that between 2007 and 2015 17,623 members of the armed forces were prescribed Lariam and 6.9% of those prescribed had an initial assessment for a mental health disorder at MOD specialist Mental Health Service. However the data doesn’t include soldiers affected prior to 2007 despite Lariam being widely used in the previous decade.

The specialist armed forces and group actions team at Irwin Mitchell has received almost 300 enquires from armed forces personnel affected by mental health issues such as depression, hallucinations and anxiety after taking Lariam.

Expert Opinion
“It’s encouraging that the MoD is finally making changes to its policies relating to Lariam and the latest guidance does appear to be treating the drug as a last resort. But troops who have already suffered mental health issues relating to Lariam need more support and in reality it is unknown how many people may have been affected because the logs of who was prescribed Lariam are inaccurate and many armed forces personnel may have been discharged before they realised they had mental health problems.

“These figures only represent a small section of the true scale of the problem and are misleading as they seem to play down the problems that are life-changing for those involved. Further, these statistics only run from 2007, failing to publicise how many people have been affected since 1997 when it was compulsory for risk assessments to be carried out when prescribing Lariam.

“The figures published appear to do little other than highlight the poor record keeping by the MOD for the supply of anti-malaria drugs over a period spanning two decades. This can be clearly seen from the fact that 12,900 service personnel have been supplied with an anti-malaria drug where the name of the drug is unknown. Whilst the MOD are taking steps to correct their record keeping deficiencies, more needs to be done to support those who have already suffered harm.

“The MoD’s official figures are very conservative as we know from experience that medical records for armed forces personnel do not always contain details of Lariam prescriptions. In some circumstances it would appear that unit deployments may have had an order for the whole unit to be supplied with Lariam but there may not be reference to Lariam supply in individual medical records. We are concerned that this may result in the wrong diagnosis for those soldiers affected. We are also concerned that the MOD has accepted that not all service personnel have a record that Lariam has been supplied to them.

“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

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