Ban urged on holiday drug after girl dies

A six-year-old girl has died after using a controversial anti-malarial drug used by thousands of British people every year who travel to areas where the disease is rife. It is the first documented death linked to mefloquine, which is known to cause serious side-effects in some people.

The drug, also known as Lariam, is popular because it only has to be taken once a week. But hundreds of travellers have reported psychological disturbances such as panic attacks, depression and hallucinations. Suicide attempts have also been blamed on the use of Lariam.

Last year a Bristol-based law firm announced that it was to seek compensation for people who suffered serious side-effects after taking Lariam. To date, Lawrence Tucketts has been contacted by about 500 prospective litigants.

In August, the British Medical Journal reported that the incidents of side-effects was as high as one in 140 travellers who were taking mefloquine, and unpleasant enough temporarily to stop their day-to-day activities. This compares with a figure of one in 1,100 of those taking other anti-malarials such as chloroquine and proguanil. Because of increasing resistance, these drugs are less effective than before.

Lance Cole, of the pressure group Lariam Action, which has 300 members, called for immediate suspension of the drug, saying: "This is the first attributable death we know about. It is further proof there is a problem with the drug."

In the case reported in the Lancet by doctors at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, a six-year-old healthy girl was given Lariam for going to Nigeria on a four-week holiday. She had not taken the drug before and was not on any other medication.

Five weeks after starting the course, she developed blisters on her lips and a swollen face. Her skin erupted, parts of her body became ulcerated and she shed both hair and nails. She developed fever, anaemia and septicaemia (blood poisoning). After being admitted to a paediatric intensive-care unit she suffered heart problems and died after 19 days.

Writing in the Lancet, Professor Clifford Lawrence, of the Department of Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, said: "We believe that this case of fatal toxic epidermal necrolysis in a previously fit and healthy six-year- old was due to mefloquine. Extensive investigations revealed no evidence of an alternative drug or other causes."

The doctors said that the increase of chloroquine-resistant malaria, and easier travel to places where malaria is endemic meant that the need for effective and safe treatment was "self-evident". He added: "We are concerned that anti-malarials such as fansidar and mefloquine, with long half lives, may produce severe and potentially life-threatening adverse reactions which persist long after the drug is withdrawn ... we emphasise the importance of careful reporting of side effects if further deaths are to be prevented."

A spokeswoman for Roche Products Limited UK, which manufactures Lariam, said: "This is a very sad case. What Roche would wish to underline, however, is that the symptom is not unique to Lariam, that it is extremely rare and that the risks of not taking appropriate prophylaxis for malaria are far higher.

"The symptom described is one that has been reported in association with anti-malarial drugs including mefloquine. A warning about the symptom is included on the Lariam data sheet produced by the company."

But Mr Cole said: "We call for a suspension of the drug: malaria is a dangerous disease and people must take precautions against it but what is the point of taking an anti-malarial drug no matter how effective it is if it makes you feel worse than the actual disease?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'