SNP slam UK Government over malaria treatment for armed forces

Party states that UK Government response to drug investigation is putting troops at risk 

THE SNP has described the UK government’s response to the investigation into the use of the malaria drug Lariam for UK armed forces personnel as "deeply disappointing".
    
An investigation by the House of Commons defence select committee was launched this year after the drug was linked to reports of negative side effects such as neuropsychiatric disorders which saw it withdrawn from use by other military authorities around the world.

The SNP position is that the drug itself should be used only as a "drug of last resort" if at all, and that the ideal solution would be for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to not use the drug for the treatment of malaria but instead find alternatives.

"It will not be listed as a 'drug of last resort', and the suggestion that they follow key Nato allies in further tightening the way in which Lariam is prescribed were brushed off." Douglas Chapman

SNP MP Douglas Chapman, a member of the defence select committee which scrutinised the use of Lariam, said: "The new malaria prevention policy is a step forward, however the MoD response effectively stops there on the use of Lariam. 

"That is a deeply disappointing outcome after our extensive investigation showed all the problems associated with its use.
 
"It will not be listed as a 'drug of last resort', and the suggestion that they follow key Nato allies in further tightening the way in which Lariam is prescribed were brushed off.
 
"The MoD are committed to taking up the recommendation that they will be recruiting a team to provide a single point of contact for service personnel affected by Lariam. That is something that I will make sure is progressed and monitored - to make sure it is working for those involved. The duty of care to service personnel always has to be a priority."

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Marriott suggested that between 25 and 35 percent of personnel who had been prescribed Lariam were affected.

Lariam is prescribed to UK military personnel serving in parts of the world where malaria is a risk, mostly African countries and also on exercises in jungle training areas such as Belize.

According to MoD files, testimonies and the investigation, users who range from serving personnel to ex-service persons have complained of hallucinations, vivid dreams and in numerous cases serious mental health issues leading to suicide attempts. 

In the UK, the MoD has prescribed Lariam to over 17,000 troops between April 2007 and March of last year. The defence select committee has suggested the number could be higher as no data is available before 2007. 

After the conclusion of the investigation this week, the drug remains in use in the British armed forces, however the MoD emphasised that it is "not the main antimalarial of choice."

The MoD has prescribed Lariam to over 17,000 troops between April 2007 and March of last year.

The MoD does not have official records of who has suffered from severe side effects but evidence given to the committee by retired Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Marriott suggested that between 25 and 35 per cent of personnel who had been prescribed Lariam were affected.

Developed by the US Army in the 1970s, Lariam was designed to protect personnel against the potentially fatal disease which is carried by mosquitoes, and the drug was distributed to troops from the UK, US, Canada, Ireland and Australia. 

Dr Remington Nevin, the leading expert on the drug, called it "something of an international public health tragedy".

The defence select committee has said it will monitor the use of Lariam in the UK military and is entitled to request updates from the MoD every six months.

Picture courtesy of Defence Images

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