- Former army chief Lord Dannatt issues apology over Lariam on Victoria Derbyshire
- Lord Dannatt admits he would not take Lariam himself
- Lord Dannatt said his son Bertie had suffered mental health problems after taking two doses of Lariam
- Lawyers call on MoD to accept its failings and co-operate with servicemen and women suffering from mental health issues and psychological side effects
- Official Government response to Defence Committee Report expected shortly
Former army chief Lord Dannatt’s apology for allowing troops to take controversial anti-malaria drug Lariam, should be the catalyst for the MoD to accept its past failings and to co-operate with the servicemen and women who have suffered and desperately need help and support to put their lives back together, say lawyers.
The Government will shortly release its response to the House of Commons Defence Committee report, An acceptable risk? The use of Lariam for military personnel, which recommended the end of the use of Lariam for our armed forces, except in very restricted cases.
The evidence given by the MoD to the Inquiry and its brief comments on the report when it was released give grounds for very limited optimism that the Ministry will accept that from now on the use of Lariam as a preventative drug should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. We also believe that the MoD will only admit to some occasional failures.
The same evidence and comments, however, give lawyers acting for injured military personnel reason to fear that there will be no substantial admissions in relation to what they think has been a wholesale failure in the duty of care.
Hilary Meredith Solicitors has already been contacted by more than 850 former service personnel who were prescribed the drug and suffered from a range of mental health issues and neuropsychiatric side-effects, including hallucinations, severe depression, seizures, sleep disturbances and anxiety.
Philippa Tuckman, military negligence specialist and partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors provided evidence to the Inquiry. She acts for injured service men and women, including many of those whose lives have been affected by Lariam.
Commenting on the Government’s response, Philippa Tuckman said:
“I hope we will hear that the MoD has finally accepted that Lariam should only be administered in very restricted cases, though it will have taken them far too long to get even to this point. It is now time for the MoD to accept its past failings and to co-operate with the servicemen and women who have suffered and desperately need help and support to put their lives back together.”
“The main problem with MoD’s use of Lariam has been a wholesale failure to follow basic medical guidance.
“Asserting that malaria is a dangerous disease, though true, misses the point. There are alternatives available that don’t have the special problems that Lariam does.
“Since 1997 it has been mandatory for the MoD to issue strong warnings about Lariam and to advise service personnel that if they suffer any side effects they should go to a medic before the next dose is administered so they can be prescribed an alternative. The MoD has also had a responsibility to ensure than no-one with a pre-existing medical condition is given Lariam.
“We have been contacted by hundreds of veterans, and the vast majority tell us that they did not get this advice or support.”
“I am now calling on the MoD to face up to its responsibilities by admitting its failings, and to make good by co-operating with the servicemen and women who have suffered, to help them put their lives back together.
“If they don’t agree they have been at fault and if they assert that failings were rare, they need to prove that as a general rule sufficient warnings and advice really were given.
“The MoD also needs to be clear and open about what they mean when they say that individual assessments have actually been carried out to avoid the drug being given to those who have been hurt. Do they mean that medical staff checked the records of all personnel who were to be given Lariam? Do they agree with the Committee that this is not enough and that there should be a face-to-face examination?”
“There remain a number of unanswered questions regarding use of Lariam in the armed forces. The onus is on the MoD to provide the answers and to ensure that the mistakes of the past are never, ever repeated in the future.”