Lariam – Ministry of Defence response fails to acknowledge lamentable failures of the past or reassure about the future

The Government has today released 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 and strongly criticised the MoD’s use of the drug in the past.

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:

“We are disappointed.  As well as apparently refusing to commit to using Lariam only as a drug of last resort, the MoD’s response neither acknowledges the lamentable failings of the past nor reassures about the future.

“The Committee made very strong criticisms of the unsafe ways in which Lariam has been administered in the past – but the MoD has simply not addressed those criticisms.

“This is particularly surprising in view of the recent admission by General Lord Dannatt that the MoD did not take charge of the problems presented by Lariam.

“I am not at all confident that the MoD is going to work with the servicemen and women who have been injured to ensure they receive the help and support they need.”

Philippa continued:

“We give a qualified welcome to the MoD’s commitment that no anti-malarial drugs will be given without an individual face-to-face risk assessment in the future.  However, we have to be assured that these assessments really will protect individual service men and women from suffering in the future the damage that has already been caused to many of their colleagues.”

Hilary Meredith Solicitors has been contacted by more than 1000 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.  The firm is calling on the MoD to guarantee:

  1. That individuals are told that Lariam is associated with neuropsychiatric problems such as depression, sleeplessness, suicidal thoughts, strange dreams and fits.
  2. That they are advised that if they experience any of symptoms, even mildly, they must get medical advice on an alternative before the next dose is due.
  3. That they are properly assessed before they are told to take the drug.

 

Philippa continued:

“The MoD is still reserving the right to use written records to check for reasons not to prescribe. There’s no way this ‘single’ method can be completely reliable. Problems that have arisen since the person’s last attendance, for example, will not be included. In addition, issues such as nightmares, which members of the services may not have attributed to their Lariam doses, may never have been reported or recorded.

“In short, there is still a failure to face up to the problems either of the past or in the future. I fear it is a deliberate attempt to deny our former service men and women the support they need and deserve.”