Some of Britain’s most respected military commanders are calling on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to review its continued use of an antimalarial drug recently banned by the US Army due to its dangerous side-effects.
Veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are among those falling into line behind Lord General Richard Dannatt, who has called on the MoD to “follow the US example and no longer prescribe Lariam. The risks are too high”.
Mefloquine, a drug branded as Lariam, can cause suicidal thoughts, psychosis, and other serious psychiatric problems. The US Army ended its use of the drug last month.
Major General Patrick Cordingley DSO, commander of the desert rats in the first Gulf War, said: “Having been prescribed Lariam once in my career, I know from first-hand that it is a terrifying drug. I was not myself for several days. It was a truly unpleasant experience. The MoD should stop giving it to soldiers.”
And Lord Guthrie OBE, former Chief of Defence Staff, said there is “cause for great concern about the use of Lariam by the Army” and the matter “needs to be urgently addressed by the authorities”.
The Army has a responsibility to protect soldiers against diseases like malaria, but “they also have a responsibility to proscribe drugs that have the least-adverse side-effects”, said Colonel Richard Kemp CBE, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan.
The MoD has no plans to stop using Lariam, described by Air Marshal Paul Evans, the MoD’s Surgeon General, as “one of a number of effective antimalarials that we use”. He said: “The MoD will continue to follow the best advice as provided by Public Health England.”