Lariam drugs

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Over the past two decades, many have suffered varying degrees of psychotic experiences, some unbearably horrific, from a brain-damaging neurotoxic drug that’s been commonly used for protecting against mosquito-borne malaria infections. 

The side effects may linger long after one stops taking the drug, because the brain and central nervous system damage has been done. This neurotoxic drug’s physiological damage creates psychiatric traumas.

But the extreme dangers of mefloquine chloride-formulated Lariam were swept under the rug for most of those years, leaving many victims in medical treatment limbo since mefloquine toxicity data was denied or suppressed throughout most of those two decades.  

Now the reality of mefloquine is established and better known. Many mefloquine neurologically-damaged victims are finally getting media attention, while more injury lawyers are getting what could become a mefloquine lawsuit feeding frenzy.

How Roche Established a Military and Peace Corp Monopoly for Lariam  

Though considered effective for resisting malaria infections, Larium and generic mefloquine malaria prophylactic drugs have caused serious adverse neurological and psychiatric side effects that disrupt lives, often leading to suicides and sometimes homicides. 

The U.S. Army had already been doing research on mefloquine’s efficacy for preventing malaria from mosquito bites. The Walter Reed Army Institute for Research gave its research papers to the Swiss-based drug company Hoffman LaRoche, commonly known as Roche. (Source)

This would eventually create the military as a government-sponsored customer with a large population if Roche could complete the research and get FDA approval for the USA, which it did in 1989. 

Military personnel can be ordered to take it over four other CDC recommended malaria prophylactic drugs that could be considered as effective but safer, though none are ideal. The major selling points were Lariam (mefloquine) was less expensive and only needed to be taken once a week. (Source)

Peace Corps volunteers also became unwitting customers of mefloquine as the government-sponsored Peace Corps went along with the Army’s assessment of mefloquine being the most effective and less expensive malaria-resisting drug. They were not apprised of the drug’s dangers. 

With lawsuits mounting against Roche, the company pulled Lariam out of the USA market circa 2009, although there are still generic versions of mefloquine in the marketplace. 

Mefloquine Side Effects Are Often Not Temporary

Early side effect notices listed during the 1990s focused on milder side effects such as nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, and insomnia. Vestibular disturbances such as intense ringing or noises in the ears, dizziness, and vertigo were also listed. 

But real life mefloquine or Lariam adverse neurological and psychiatric symptoms include: hallucinations, insomnia, frighteningly vivid nightmares, anxiety, confusion, paranoia, and aggression. 

The more serious long term side effects often led to suicide or murder. Since reporting side effects to the FDA or CDC is rarely done by doctors or patients, it took quite some time for the bodies to pile up sufficiently for the FDA to take notice. 

The FDA finally issued a black box warning in 2013 for Larium and other generic drug company spin-offs using mefloquine. When a warning on a prescription drug insert is enclosed with a black border, it’s called a black box warning. 

Black box warnings are the most severe warning the FDA gives before demanding a drug’s removal from the market place. 

The FDA’s black box warning for mefloquine states what earlier side effect warnings did not include: 

Some of the psychiatric symptoms persisted for months to years after mefloquine was discontinued. (Source)

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) also warns that the negative neurotoxic side effects of Lariam or generic mefloquine drugs can last for “weeks, months, and even years,” after someone stops using it. (Source)

There were several instances of attempted suicides forced by suicidal thinking or ideation along with very frightening vivid nightmares, especially among military personnel forced to take mefloquine drugs. Many attempts were successful. 

Retired Army Epidemiologist and Preventative Medicine Officer Dr. Remington Nevin wrote in HuffPost op-ed “Mefloquine: The Military’s Suicide Pill” that:

The public had its first glimpse of the mefloquine suicide problem over a decade ago in 2002, when a cluster of murder-suicides occurred among Ft. Bragg soldiers returning home from deployment. All three soldiers had been taking mefloquine, yet an official Army investigation later concluded mefloquine was “unlikely to be the cause of this clustering.” (Source)

The returning soldiers, four of them according to another source, murdered their wives and two of them killed themselves. 

Roche’s denial continued despite the fact that suicide rates among active troops in Iraq dropped dramatically after they were no longer being given mefloquine.

Former associate clinical research director at Roche, Dr. Donald H. Marks, left Roche in 1991. He said in a UPI mefloquine investigation that there is “ample reason” to believe Lariam causes suicide adding that its neurotoxicity, which causes brain damage, “could lead to suicidal behavior well after no longer using it.”

Dr. Marks declared to UPI investigative journalists: 

Roche has developed an attitude of not adjusting the information it supplies to physicians and patients about the performance and safety characteristics of their drugs. (Source)

The complete detailed UPI investigative report on mefloquine is available here.

Because mefloquine neurotoxicity is not properly acknowledged, many suffering from mefloquine are misdiagnosed as PTSD, brain-damaged, or malingering for seeking treatments. 

Among the many homeless veterans and those whose suicides were attributed to PTSD, many may have actually been victims of mefloquine toxicity related brain damage.

Dr. Nevin says the establishment’s denial of mefloquine neurotoxicity is  “the Agent Orange of this generation.” You can access a CBS Washington DC affiliate’s short video report on mefloquine here. 

Canadian Veterans and Active Duty Individuals Damaged by Mefloquine Filing Lawsuits

What was perhaps initially started as a Canadian class-action lawsuit against mefloquine for around 1250 Canadian military veterans, active duty members, and a few Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) personnel was rearranged earlier this year, 2019. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have decided to represent each plaintiff who wants to proceed with individual lawsuits. Paul Miller, a Toronto-based personal injury lawyer stated on the record:

Every individual who wants to commence an action will get their own lawsuit. This is a really emotional case for people. Their lives have been impacted so severely, and this gives them some real skin in the game, in that they are playing a part of it, whereas, in a class action, you don’t really have that same feel and control. (Source)

You can view a short clip of Canada’s CTV News mefloquine coverage here. 

Homicide Appears to Be Another Mefloquine Side Effect

In addition to the Ft. Bragg murder-suicides referred to earlier in this article, a more glaring example of mefloquine-induced psychosis occurred in Afganistan when Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a homicidal rampage and killed 16 non-combatant civilians, including women and children.

He was convicted in the States to serve a life sentence. His lawyer, John Browne, testified with documented evidence that Bales was using mefloquine often, sometimes while consuming alcohol. 

This was in 2012, a year before the FDA’s black box warning, which has given rise to more claims for financial compensation and legal defenses for actions committed while on mefloquine. 

Medical professionals should learn of and discuss other options for malaria prophylaxis with those going into malaria contagion regions. 

Appropriate authorities should demand medical practitioners to report all adverse side effect reports from mefloquine and enforce that demand. 

Mefloquine’s neurotoxic issues have also been noticed outside of North America. The following video is from a Dutch TV channel’s coverage of individuals who have suffered from mefloquine’s neurotoxicity.