The Government has issued new figures revealing the number of British soldiers prescribed Lariam, the controversial antimalarial drug.
In a new statistical bulletin, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed that, since 2007, over 17,000 British armed forces personnel have been prescribed Lariam. The prescriptions peaked at 3,276 in 2013 and, although the figures show a fall to just 1,979 prescriptions in 2014, this perhaps could have been due to a reduction in the number of soldiers deployed to malaria zones that year.
Lariam, also known as Mefloquine, has been under the media spotlight recently because of its dangerous side effects, which include serious mental health issues.
Medical Experts Condemn the Continued Use of Lariam
A Defence Select Committee inquiry into the use of Lariam among British armed forces began in November last year.
The inquiry is still ongoing but, in an evidence session held on 8 December, a former senior army officer and malaria expert told the select committee that the continued use of Lariam is “irrational, illogical and unethical” and that the drug is “the least safe of the available antimalarials currently used”.
Lt Croft served in the Royal Army Medical Corps for over 25 years, during which time he repeatedly raised concerns about the continued use of the drug. His concerns were echoed last year by Conservative MP Johnny Mercer who called for an outright ban on the use of Lariam among British soldiers.
Many soldiers have reported serious side effects with using the drug, such as anxiety, depression and paranoia. Since 2007, up to 1,000 British armed forces personnel required psychiatric treatment after taking Lariam.
The MoD continues to give Lariam to British soldiers in accordance with guidance from Public Health England, who have so far remained silent on the issue. Lariam was banned by the US military in 2013.
A Sky News article just this week described how a former Royal Navy sailor became suicidal after taking Lariam whilst on deployment to Africa.
Slater and Gordon are currently investigating a number of potential claims in connection with the use of Lariam among armed forces personnel.
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