August 22, 2002 - National Post: Canadians serving in Afghanistan were given malaria antidote blamed in women's deaths

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 08 August 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: August 22, 2002 - National Post: Canadians serving in Afghanistan were given malaria antidote blamed in women's deaths

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, August 24, 2002 - 4:40 pm: Edit Post

Canadians serving in Afghanistan were given malaria antidote blamed in women's deaths

Read and comment on this story about the about the possible link between the use of Lariam by our troops in Afghanistan and whether behavioral or physical problems caused by Lariam might be involved in a series of domestic killings at Fort Bragg by soldiers who have used the drug.

Lariam is the most effective anti-malarial drug known and has been used by thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers over the past ten years. However, the drug's potential side effects are rarely reported and include agitation, depression and aggression.

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Canadians serving in Afghanistan were given malaria antidote blamed in women's deaths*

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Canadians serving in Afghanistan were given malaria antidote blamed in women's deaths

David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were given a controversial anti-malaria drug that some in the U.S. are now linking to the killings of women at a military base in North Carolina.

The U.S. army is considering sending an epidemiology team to Fort Bragg to study various medical aspects of a recent series of murder-suicides, including any role that the anti-malaria drug mefloquine may have had in those incidents.

In the past several months four soldiers have killed their spouses at the army base. Three of the men had taken mefloquine, also known as Lariam, while serving in Afghanistan, and according to friends and family exhibited erratic and aggressive behaviour on their return.

The same drug was given to Canadian paratroopers sent to Somalia in 1992 and 1993, and there have been claims it may have led to aggressive behaviour toward Somalis.

The wife of Clayton Matchee, the soldier who tortured and killed Somali teenager Shidane Arone, has said she believes mefloquine was responsible for her husband's actions.

Other former paratroopers have complained they still suffer from mefloquine-induced symptoms, including nightmares, and some have suggested the drug may have prompted a young soldier to commit suicide in Rwanda during the Canadian Airborne Regiment's mission there in 1994.

Canadian Forces spokesman Maj. Ric Jones said mefloquine was given to Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan as it is the military's drug of choice for anti-malaria purposes. Maj. Jones could not say whether the Canadian military will conduct a review of medical literature similar to what may occur in the U.S. "No one has suggested, that I'm aware of, of any relation between the Fort Bragg incidents and us," he said.

Maj. Jones said previous inquiries have shown there was no link between the drug and the killings at the Canadian base in Somalia in 1993. "They looked at all the available information that was there on it at the time and even recently and they had no reason to believe there was any connection between it," he noted.

U.S. Army officials also don't believe the drug played a role in the Fort Bragg murders. "If they are sent to Fort Bragg, the epidemiology team will conduct a medical literature search on effects of the use of any pharmaceuticals, including mefloquine/Lariam, although there is no evidence indicating its possible use had any impact on the behavior of the suspects," army spokeswoman Elaine Kanellis stated in an e-mail to the Citizen.

She said it is "speculative and inappropriate to comment on the motive for the behaviour of any of the individuals involved in these incidents,"

But one officer at Fort Bragg, Maj. Daniel Barzyk, told the United Press International news agency that said some of the troops in Afghanistan had been taken off Lariam and switched to an alternative drug for what he described as "erratic behavior." Maj. Barzyk said he himself sometimes experienced increased anger because of the drug.

The four murders have rocked the sprawling military community in North Carolina. In one incident, a special forces soldier shot and killed his wife and then turned the gun on himself. He had returned from Afghanistan two days earlier. Shortly after, another Afghan veteran, just back from that country, strangled his wife. In July a member of the secret special forces unit, Delta Force, shot his wife and then killed himself. He had returned from Afghanistan in January.

There is no evidence that a fourth soldier, alleged to have killed his wife, had taken mefloquine.

In a 1999 report, Canada's auditor general's office criticized the Defence department and Health Canada for failing to keep track of whether the 900 soldiers who took the drug in Somalia suffered side-effects, such as psychiatric disorders. The auditor general noted that the two federal organizations failed to follow the proper safety protocols when they gave the then unlicensed drugs to the troops.

At the time, mefloquine was in use in the U.S. and in 28 other countries. Although severe side-effects were considered rare, the drug was known to cause gastrointestinal and psychiatric disorders. Some who have taken the pills have reported effects such as depression, hallucinations, paranoia, memory loss and panic attacks.

A study published in 1996 in the British Medical Journal also found that one in 140 users of the drug suffered dizziness, panic attacks, hallucinations or other neuropsychiatric problems. In the Netherlands, more than two dozen Dutch peacekeepers complained that mefloquine was responsible for a variety of problems suffered while on a six-month tour of duty in Cambodia.

But tropical medical specialists have argued that the benefits of the drug in protecting against malaria far outweigh any side-effects.

Every year, the mosquito-borne disease kills almost three million people around the globe. Mefloquine became the drug of choice for western travellers when the parasite that causes malaria developed a resistance to such other drugs as chloroquine.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports - Larium; Peace Corps - Safety and Security



By doug kursk on Wednesday, September 03, 2003 - 11:56 pm: Edit Post

hi name is Doug and i was in somalia in 91-92. i was given melfloquine before leaving canada and after we arrived in somalia.the headaches started immediately and the nausea as well .it only subsided after 2 weeks!we found out subsequent to arriving home that we had been given twice the amount of melfloquine given other coalition troops.i know a lot of sick people from that time,and am not suprised to hear about the deaths of your soldiers.we were warned at the time that taking steroids or drinking heavily while on melfloquine could result in "paranoid episodes,and even pscychotic breakdown if abused"this was told to us and now i know this to be a truth that is self advice to you is to never take the damn drug.i am now 38 and and i still have physical after effects from this poison

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