Anti-malaria Drug May Be Harmful: Experts Warn

by Kofi Ayim

The anti malaria drug Mefloquine that several Africans use to prevent malaria attacks when they visit their homelands may pose a health hazard. In a CBS Television Evening News Report on December 23, 2013, two U.S. military doctors said deployed Navy personnel suffered a brain injury after taking the anti-malaria drug mefloquine.  Another Army veteran said he took the drug in 2002 while deployed in Afghanistan and has never been the same with random fits of rage that still persists. According to the news report, the military has dispensed mefloquine for the past 20 years with little problems. The military contends that vivid dreams and hallucinations were normal reactions of the drug.  However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), strongly warns that hallucination is a side effect that doctors must consider red flag. In an interview on the CBS News, Dr. Remington Nevin a former Army doctor, who’s now with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health says “Mefloquine causes toxic brain injury,” He said mefloquine can cause brain injuries in some veterans, but less obvious changes to mood and personality in thousands of veterans.  “In some cases, these individuals will be misdiagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury,” Nevin says. “I think we have a hidden epidemic of psychiatric and neurological injuries due to this drug.” Officials at the Pentagon, aware of increased reports of side effects on the drug have issued two directives, first in 2009 and again in 2013 year, to give mefloquine only as a “last resort” drug to prevent malaria. After the FDA warned that side effects from mefloquine might be permanent, the Army Special Forces Command  banned all future prescriptions, making Special Forces the only branch of the military to ban the drug. In every other command and service, it’s the third choice option but still being prescribed in the field.  In July 2013, the FDA issued a boxed warning, – the most serious kind of warning about these potential problems – to the drug label. It advised the public about neurologic and psychiatric side effects associated with the drug. The FDA in a revised patient Medication Guide points out that the neurologic side effects could possibly persist or become permanent, even after the drug is stopped. These side effects can include dizziness, loss of balance, or ringing in the ears. The psychiatric side effects can include feeling anxious, mistrustful, depressed, or having hallucinations. Mefloquine was previously marketed under the brand name Lariam. Generic mefloquine products are available in the US, according to an FDA website release. “Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects mosquitoes, which then bite humans.  It is a major cause of death worldwide but is less common in the United States.  The disease is a problem primarily in developing countries with warm climates. Persons who travel to these countries may be at risk of malaria infection and should take drugs to prevent or reduce that risk.  People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms.  Drugs must be taken to treat the disease if you have been infected, but may, themselves, have side effects” the website advises. It is not clear the number of Africans that have been prescribed Mefloquine/Lariam and the side effects encountered. However, some returnees from Africa are known to have been misdiagnosed upon contracting malaria. Sources: BS Evening News

Posted by on Jan 23 2014. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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