August 24, 2002 - The Bakersfield Californian: Army health team to investigate Fort Bragg slayings

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 08 August 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: August 24, 2002 - The Bakersfield Californian: Army health team to investigate Fort Bragg slayings

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, August 24, 2002 - 4:46 pm: Edit Post

Army health team to investigate Fort Bragg slayings

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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Army health team to investigate Fort Bragg slayings*

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Army health team to investigate Fort Bragg slayings

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

Saturday August 24, 2002, 10:08:38 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - Alarmed by a series of domestic killings and suicides at Fort Bragg, N.C., the Army is sending in a team of health specialists to study a range of possible explanations, officials said Friday.

The Army disputed reports that it is focusing mainly on the possibility of a link to use of the anti-malarial drug, Lariam, although officials said this was among the issues to be examined.

Lariam was prescribed to troops who fought in Afghanistan. Three of the four soldiers involved in the killings had recently returned from duty there, although the Army will not say how many of them took Lariam.

"Contrary to news reports speculating that the team will focus primarily on anti-malaria prophylaxis/medications taken by soldiers, the team will consult with local medical and unit/installation leadership at Fort Bragg on a wide variety of possible contributing factors," an Army statement said.

The team will consider factors related to how the Army prepares soldiers and their families to deal with personal and other problems before an overseas deployment and supports them upon their return.

The Army said it would look into "behavioral health issues" related to overseas deployments that are not unique to Fort Bragg, home of the Army Special Operations Command and the 18th Airborne Corps. Soldiers from those units featured prominently in U.S. ground operations in Afghanistan.

The inquiry at Fort Bragg will last most of next week, the Army said. Consultants in psychology, social work and psychiatry will join Army epidemiologists and chaplains as well as officials from the government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Members will also look at specific data associated with recent cases looking for patterns, organizational dynamics and medical issues that may have contributing significance," the Army statement said.

The Fort Bragg killings began June 11.

That day, Sgt. 1st Class Rigoberto Nieves, 32, a Special Forces soldier, fatally shot his wife and then himself, two days after he had returned from Afghanistan. Later that month, according to police investigators, another Special Forces soldier, Master Sgt. William Wright, 36, killed his wife and weeks later led authorities to her body.

On July 19, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Floyd, reportedly a member of the secret Delta Force, shot his wife and then killed himself.

Also in July, Marilyn Griffin, who had separated from her husband in May, was stabbed to death and her body set on fire in her home. Sgt. Cedric Griffin, 28, who is with the 18th Airborne Corps and had never been to Afghanistan, was charged.

Local police said all the couples had reportedly had marital problems. Army officials say there is no evidence that Lariam, the anti-malarial medication, played any role. Yet questions about the drug persist.

The manufacturer of Lariam, Roche Laboratories, acknowledges reports of suicide and suicidal thoughts attributed to Lariam, also known as mefloquine. But company spokesman Terence Hurley said they are extremely rare, "only a small percentage of the more than 25 million people that have successfully used Lariam."

Roche says some cases of severe neuropsychiatric disorders have been reported in connection with Lariam use. These include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, aggression and psychotic reactions.

The World Health Organization puts the incidence of serious neuropsychiatric effects from the drug at 5 in 100,000. Of the millions of travelers given mefloquine each year, one in 6,000 to one in about 10,000 will experience some kind of serious adverse reaction, the WHO says.

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