Anti-malaria drug used by Army may cause brain damage

Army personnel from Ohio and other states have been ordered by the Surgeon General's Office of the Army Special Operations Command to stop using a drug that may induce permanent brain damage. The drug, known as mefloquine, was specifically designed by the Army during the 1970s as way to fight malaria, and its usage has spread to millions of travelers who were never in the military because of its low cost and ease of use.

Although a malaria specialist from the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute still attests to the efficacy of the drug, noting that 80 to 90 percent of people don't experience negative symptoms, others are more critical. Experts who were members of the Army criticize the way the Pentagon handled relevant research information and its policies on use of mefloquine. The drug's negative side effects include anxiety, depression, hallucinations and other symptoms that many families think caused their loved ones to undergo past psychotic breaks that led to deaths in some instances. There was not any mention of pharmaceutical litigation being brought against the Army because of this specific drug.

The Army mefloquine ban comes on the heels of a safety warning issued by the FDA in July. The prescription halt will affect some 25,000 troops from various special units. The Pentagon claimed that it has no data on how many negative reactions personnel had experienced because of the drug, but it subsequently began a study to clarify the issue.

Military personnel and civilian defense contractors are often unknowingly exposed to substances that can cause serious health problems. While the dangers of some, like Agent Orange and asbestos, are well known enough that funds have been set up, others are risks only just now becoming apparent. Pharmaceutical lawyers who can investigate independent drug case histories and compile data on past negative reactions may be able to help those who suffered an adverse reaction and their families pursue compensation.

Source: CT Post, "Elite Army units to stop taking anti-malarial drug", Pauline Jelinek, September 20, 2013

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