Drug Safety Case Reports published an article on 08 June 2016 entitled “Prolonged Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in a Military Service Member Exposed to Mefloquine” that is very disturbing. The anti-malaria drug mefloquine had been found to cause brain damage the mimics that symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The study’s key points:
• Melfoquine-induced neuropsychiatric symptoms can be severely life debilitating.
• Given the overlapping symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and mefloquine toxicity, it can be challenging to distinguish between the two diagnoses.
• Melfoquine toxicity can persist for several years after exposure has been discontinued, with little to no abatement in symptoms over time.
• Symptoms include vertigo, emotional lability, and poor short-term memory.
• These symptoms have been unresponsive to pharmacologic therapy and psychotherapy.
Dr. Remington Nevin, a former army Epidemiologist and Preventative Medicine Officer, provided specific medical information:
Mefloquine is neurotoxic and can cause lasting injury to the brainstem and emotional centers in the limbic system. As a result of its toxic effects, the drug is quickly becoming the “Agent Orange” of this generation, linked to a growing list of lasting neurological and psychiatric problems including suicide.”
He went on to report:
In my analysis, troops prescribed mefloquine had a 3 to 5 fold increase in their risk of suicide in the years following deployment, as compared to similar troops deployed but not prescribed mefloquine. The conclusions from this analysis seemed clear: mefloquine was a strong risk factor for suicide.
What is truly disturbing is that the U.S. Army ceased distributing mefloquine in 2013. Their report entitled, “Easing Use of Mefloquine in U.S. Army Special Operations Command Units”, identified a communication from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which said, “FDA APPROVES LABEL CHANGES FOR ANTIMALARIAL DRUGMEFLOQUINE HYDROCHLORIDE DUE TO RISK OF SERIOUS PSYCHIATRIC AND NERVE SIDE EFFECTS”.
The problem is all of the effects from this drug used on thousands of service members have yet to be identified much less treated.
These reports about mefloquine and its resultant medical issues come down to this statement: additional financial resources will be needed by the Veterans Adminstration hospitals and clinics to treat these delayed disorders.