Sanctuary Trauma and Lariam Toxicity

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
March 21, 2022 | 7 Comments


  1. Antimalarial drug Lariam should not be given to UK troops, Tory MP says

    Johnny Mercer calls for ban on once-a-week tablet which has been linked with psychosis, suicidal thoughts, depression and hallucinations

    A Conservative MP has called for an immediate ban on a controversial antimalarial drug given to British soldiers overseas.

    Lariam, the a once-a-week tablet which contains the active ingredient mefloquine, has been associated with psychosis, suicidal thoughts, depression and hallucinations.

    Johnny Mercer, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, told the BBC he had received dozens of letters from service personnel claiming they had been affected by the drug.

    He told Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “I’ve had a letter about once or twice a week from not only constituents but people all over the UK who have suffered or know someone who has suffered, they believe, as a result of taking Lariam.”

    Mercer, himself a former British army officer, urged the government to stop prescribing it until further research has been carried out.

    “I just think we need to halt putting this drug out there for our guys and girls to use it until a proper study has been done, so that we know and more importantly our soldiers and their families know that this is a good defence against malaria and they can feel comfortable taking it,” the Afghanistan veteran said.

    Lariam was developed by the US army in the 1970s, yet it was not until 1996 that the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines advised doctors to warn patients about the neuropsychiatric risks of taking the drug.

    By 2014, the European Medicines Agency had warned of the “predominance of neuropsychiatric adverse reactions”.

    Tim Notee, who had taken the antimalarial drug and was subsequently diagnosed as manic, wrote in the Guardian of how he spent months in psychiatric units and that he was “suddenly short of breath, very hot and then shivery”.

    Dr Ashley Croft, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps for 27 years, carried out two detailed pieces of research on Lariam and believes around a third of those who take it suffer significant side-effects.

    “If anybody was to ask me now should they take Lariam I would say definitely not – under no circumstances should you take Lariam to prevent malaria given that there are safer options available that will not cause you to run the risk,” he told the Today programme.

    The Ministry of Defence, however, said the use of Lariam was based on expert advice and pointed out that it was widely used by both civilians and the military.

    The MoD has a stockpile of more than 11,500 packs of the drug, according to records of a parliamentary question and answer session.

    Dr Ron Behrens, a consultant adviser on tropical medicine to the MoD, believed that fears surrounding Lariam were due to public concern rather than scientific study.

    He said that the MoD had taken the advice from Public Health England, which includes a panel of scientists who have “looked at all the evidence and think that the drug is the right course. It would be foolish to go against scientific evidence.”

    Behrens added that anecdotal evidence and the US decision to ban the drug was not a reason to stop giving it to British special forces. He said research among the military commissioned by the US Senate found no increased risk.

    It was not disputed that there were serious neuropsychiatric side-effects including bad dreams, he said, but added that although there were alternative medicines, such as daily tablets, the decision was taken to give service personnel what was most appropriate and easiest logistically.

    Manufacturer Roche told the BBC: “A recent regular safety assessment conducted by EU health authorities reinforced previous guidance that the benefits of Lariam outweigh the potential risk of the treatment.”

    Lariam Update

    January 13, 2016

    It has been reported by the Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer that the Ministry of Defence has admitted to the Defence Select Committee that they failed to follow the manufactures guidelines when prescribing the anti-malaria drug Lariam to its troops. It is rare for the MOD to make such an admission and it will be warmly received by the hundreds of troops and veterans who claim to have suffered mental illness after taking the drug during their military service. This admission does not mean that the MOD will compensate those affected but it is a good start in what is likely to be a very complex dispute.

    Lariam: debated on Thursday, 27 October 2016

    [Relevant documents: Fourth Report from the Defence Committee of Session 2015-16, An acceptable risk?

    The use of Lariam for military personnel, HC 567, and the Government response, HC 648.]

    • As readers of RxISK posts will now Mr Mercer has not distinguished himself in helping women or his constituents


      • Johnny Mercer obviously finds it much easier to tell others how to behave than to take responsibility for his own lack of support for one of his constituents. Typical of the set in government at present here in the UK?

  2. Approaching Johnny

    I approached my Member of Parliament, Johnny Mercer, who was really keen to help, with talk of setting up an independent panel of educators to reach newly trained doctors.

    Then I received a phone call stating he shouldn’t have offered me that. After that, the emails from his office started. They bombarded me with “proof” – the NICE guidelines – and how they were being adhered to. It was frustrating, invalidating, and disrespectful. They were determined to prove I was wrong.

    What’s a life worth? Is anyone listening?

    • I am not military but I took lariam in 1997. I have suffered horribly. I was put on a medication that helped me but new doctor disagrees and took me off. I am now back to 1997 and worse. My balance is totally messed up and my anxiety is 24/7. I can’t do anything without falling. Does anybody know where I can get help?? Lariam is the devil and destroyed me. Africa and lariam are my nightmare.

  3. This story is compelling and resonates with me in many ways even though I have never taken such an antimalarial and did not exactly go through the nightmarish vicissitudes described by Dave. I see how similar dynamics happen when drugs cause damage that is not well discernible to the outside eye, such as those on the nervous system which is still poorly understood, and therefore easily (or conveniently) denied or misinterpreted. Thanks Dave for the video and helpful transcript and to the activists who in their efforts to fight an injustice that has affected them are at the same time doing valuable work for the safety of all.

Leave a Reply