OPINION – ROSS EASTGATE – Adverse effects of malaria drug

8 Sep 2016

Ross Eastgate

ROSS EASTGATE, Townsville Bulletin
September 8, 2016

OCCASIONALLY words used inadvisably come back to bite you.

The Australian Malaria Institute, an Australian Army unit says on its website, “Mefloquine is a safe and effective medication suitable for use as malaria prophylaxis.”

Abraham Lincoln said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Winston Churchill said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Last week former British army chief General Richard Dannatt said his son Bertie suffered mental health problems after taking just two doses of Lariam – the brand name for mefloquine – before visiting Africa as a civilian in the late 1990s.

Bertie was not then in the armed forces, but had been prescribed the drug by his father’s army doctor.

“He became extremely depressed,” the now Baron Dannatt told the BBC, “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“He got very withdrawn, and we got very worried about him.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?”

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

And no doctor who bothered to read the manufacturer’s advice on contraindications should ever have considered prescribing it for him.

In November 1977 aged just 26 then Captain Richard Dannatt suffered a major stroke which should have ended his army career.

A stroke is a cardiovascular acquired brain injury (ABI).

On the cautionary advice given by Lariam’s manufacturer Roche it would have precluded him from taking the drug.

Yet as army chief and despite his own experiences he continued to recommend its use by others in the British Army.

Dannatt now says he is “quite content to say sorry” to troops who had taken Lariam while he was army chief, admitting the issue had not been treated as a priority.

How retrospectively kind of him.

No one has yet decided who should have carriage for the undeniable adverse consequences of the AMI conducted mefloquine trials, the Department of Defence which owns AMI or the Department of Veterans Affairs which has been lumbered with the tragic consequences.

Yet the Defence hierarchy including the ADF surgeon general herself and their dysfunctional media apparatuses remain in complete denial that antimalarial medication trials in East Timor, Bougainville and elsewhere were neither inappropriately conducted, supervised nor had any significant adverse consequences on those involved.

Despite conflicting opinions it is clear those in the ADF with the responsibility for supervising them cherrypicked advice from the available literature to justify their methodology with disastrous outcomes.

Neither did they appropriately screen all participants nor extract properly informed consent as they were required to do.

International contrary evidence emerging from the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland and now the most senior UK officer formally involved in approving Lariam’s use suggest they were negligent in their actions.

The Australian military medical mafia and their compatriots at AMI are becoming increasingly isolated in their denials of misconduct because at this stage as the whole sorry saga unravels they have most to lose.

Except those who were their guinea pigs. Those responsible for planning and conducting antimalarial trials are engaged in a cover exercise and seem oblivious about the consequences to others they have deliberately drawn into their deceit, including Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan and his ministerial staff.

Some words of advice.

If you cover up by word or deed, acts which were negligent or are later proved negligent, then you are complicit in that negligence.

If there were things you should or could have known but later claim you didn’t then you are still complicit.

The Nuremberg defence — I was just following orders — doesn’t cut it.

It’s sometimes cynically said the medical profession buries its mistakes or more conveniently cremates them.

But not always.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if the devil don’t get you the coroner must.

Not to mention the determination of those most immediately affected to seek appropriate treatment and compensation if not retribution.

You have been told.