RTE’s Prime-time (Irish National Broadcaster) tackled the issue of Lariam-induced suicides within the Irish army on May 23rd. The programme can be viewed here.
For those who are not aware of Lariam (aka Mefloquine), it is a highly controversial anti-malaria drug used within the defense forces when deployed overseas. The drug can cause many serious adverse effects and numerous families have blamed it for their loved one’s suicide. Interestingly, it comes 5th in the PLOS ONE ‘Prescription Drugs associated with violence’ study (after Champix and Seroxat). The US army stopped the use of Lariam following numerous suicides and severe psychiatric reactions associated with its use. Tragically, for all concerned, this drug has been implicated in the massacre of 17 Afghan citizens including children by Sgt. Robert Bales (pictured) on March 11, 2012. His wife said “I have no idea what happened, but he would not – he loves children. He would not do that.“
A few weeks after the Prime-time programme (which included grieving families and their harrowing testimonies), I was disappointed to see the Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter, defending Lariam in the media. He defended the use of the drug, disputing its links to suicide and said “There is no evidence in any of the coroners’ inquests linking any deaths to Lariam.” He seemed to have completely undermined the Prime-time programme and it made no sense to me. Why would he do that?
Sorry but I have no answers to Minister Shatter’s involvement but I do have a very recent warning (8th July 2013) from Roche Pharmaceuticals which the Minister might find embarrassing. The link can be found here but Minister Shatter might find the excerpt below interesting.
Minister Shatter said of the nine cases of lariam suicides” “given the limited period of time during which Lariam remains in the bloodstream, according to our expert advice, it is extremely unlikely that the product could have been a contributory factor in practically all of these cases”. Irish Times June 19th. The following excerpt may help him a little bit with that one:
Roche, who originally marketed Lariam, is no stranger to controversy, having also invented the notorious acne drug Accutane. This drug is also widely linked to suicide and following numerous lawsuits in 2009 Roche pulled the drug from the US market. The Irish Medicine’s Board still allow it though despite a high profile court case involving a courageous Irish father here. Roche’s corruption and intimidation tactics were subsequently captured in Doug Bremner’s ‘Before You Take That Pill’.
What I do find interesting is why Roche came out with the warning now. Was it pressure from the Prime-time documentary? Was it pressure from the pharma-funded Irish Medicine’s Board? I doubt it! But one thing is for sure, it was not out of the goodness of Roche’s pharma heart.
- ‘Horror movie in a pill’: Side-effects of Lariam worse than malaria (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Report Suggests Malaria Drug May Have Played Role In U.S. Soldier’s Deadly Rampage (forbes.com)