Travelling abroad? MEA medical adviser Dr Charles Shepherd comments on the latest Lariam alert | 31 August 2016

People with ME/CFS obviously need to take an appropriate form of anti-malarial medication, as well as other precautions, if they are travelling to an area where malaria is present.

Lariam is one such drug However, there are continuing concerns about the (sometimes quite serious) neuropsychiatric side-effects that can occur with this drug. And I have also heard from people with ME/CFS who predate the onset of their illness to the use of this drug.

So this is one antimalarial drug that may be better avoided by people with ME/CFS if there is a suitable alternative available – which there normally is.

BBC news report on Lariam which involves the son of Lord Dannett – former head of the British army: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37183873

More information on Lariam:

www.rxlist.com/lariam-drug/patient-images-side-effects.htm


TEXT OF BBC NEWS REPORT


A former Army chief has admitted he has refused to take a controversial anti-malaria drug despite it being offered to his troops.

Lord Dannatt told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme he personally believes the drug can have “catastrophic” mental health effects.

He said his own son took Lariam and became “extremely depressed”.

The Ministry of Defence said: “The vast majority of deployed personnel already receive alternatives to Lariam.”

Lord Dannatt said he was “quite content to say sorry” to troops who had taken the drug while he was head of the Army, between 2006 and 2009.

Lord Dannatt said his son Bertie had suffered mental health problems after taking two doses of Lariam – the brand name for mefloquine – before visiting Africa as a civilian in the late 1990s.

He was not in the armed forces at the time, but had been prescribed the drug by his father’s Army doctor.

“He became extremely depressed,” Lord Dannatt said, “not the person that he would normally be – a very bubbly, personable sort of individual.

“He got very withdrawn, and we got very worried about him.

“If that had been untreated, who knows where it would have gone.”

The MoD’s doctors prescribed Lariam to more than 17,000 troops between April 2007 and March 2015, although it is not the main anti-malaria drug used by the armed forces.

Lord Dannatt said the drug’s side-effects – which can include depression and suicidal thoughts – could be “pretty catastrophic”.

He said: “Because Bertie had that effect, whenever I’ve needed anti-malarial drugs, I’ve said, ‘I’ll take anything, but I’m not taking Lariam.'”

Lord Dannatt said he was “quite content to say sorry” to troops who had taken Lariam while he was head of the Army, admitting the issue had not been treated as a priority.

Asked why soldiers had continued to be prescribed Lariam during his years in charge, he said the MoD at the time “hadn’t reached a settled view on whether Lariam was more beneficial or harmful”.

Lord Dannatt said: “I suppose, in that period from 2003 right through to 2014 – when we were focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, which were not malarial areas, and we weren’t giving a large number of people Lariam – it probably slightly slipped off our mainstream radar.

“I think we put it on the back burner.”

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