Judicial Watch • Documents Uncovered by Judicial Watch Raise Concerns About Use of Drug for Military Personnel

Documents Uncovered by Judicial Watch Raise Concerns About Use of Drug for Military Personnel

Documents Uncovered by Judicial Watch Raise Concerns About Use of Drug for Military Personnel

MAY 02, 2012

Anti-Malarial Drug Mefloquine Associated With 87 Deaths and Hundreds of Psychotic Episodes in Past 15 Years

Was Staff Sergeant Robert Bales Administered the Drug?

(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch, the public interest group that that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has uncovered documents from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detailing more than 2,000 episodes during the past 15 years in which people had serious adverse reactions caused by the anti-malaria drug, mefloquine hydrochloride, commonly known as Lariam®.  Of 87 reported deaths associated with the drug, 39 were recorded as suicides and 12 were homicides.

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a March 26, 2012, request submitted to the FDA, include details from the agency’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) identifying persons treated with mefloquine from November 4, 1997, through March 28, 2012, and the specific reported reactions to the drug. In addition to the reported deaths, reported reactions included hallucinations, panic attacks, depression, paranoia, anxiety, confusion, mental disorder, delusion, hemorrhaging, and numerous other serious disorders.

Long known for its severe neurological side effects, mefloquine was supposedly removed as the drug of choice in the treatment of malaria by the Department of Defense (DOD). In a September 2009 policy memorandum, the Defense Department stated that mefloquine was to be prescribed only in limited cases where other drugs, such as doxycycline and mallarone, were considered unlikely to be effective. Mefloquine was specifically prohibited in the treatment of patients with head injuries, and in particular, a TBI (traumatic brain injury).  It is also contraindicated for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nonetheless, the documents obtained by Judicial Watch indicate clearly that mefloquine is still prescribed, even though its use has decreased since the September 2009 memorandum limiting its use was issued. In the field, medics apparently do not necessarily need to follow such policy recommendations by the U.S. Army and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

Given the serious side effects of the drug and the psychotic and aggressive change that can occur in the personality of patients being treated with mefloquine, questions have been raised as to whether or not Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was given the drug prior to his allegedly attacking and murdering 17 Afghan civilians during the night of March 11, 2012.

To date, the DOD has neither confirmed nor denied that Sergeant Bates took mefloquine, citing medical privacy concerns. His attorney, John Henry Browne, told CNN that he “would not be surprised” if Bales took it. According to The Huffington Post: “The Pentagon is in the midst of a widespread review of the military’s use of a notorious anti-malaria drug after finding out that the pills have been wrongly given to soldiers with preexisting problems, including brain injuries such as the one sustained by the U.S. soldier who allegedly massacred 17 civilians in Afghanistan…[T]he initial review was ordered in January. After the massacre, on March 20, one part of the Army issued an urgent call to complete the Jan. 17 request from Woodson within six days.”

Bales reportedly suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2010.  If so, then Defense Department policy would have prohibited administration of the drug to Bales.

“Obviously, the Department of Defense has been lax in policing the use of this dangerous drug in the treatment of service men and women,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “Given the seriousness of the side effects documented in these reports, the Pentagon should quickly considering halting the drug’s distribution to our troops.”

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  • Jeffrey Kaye

    This article makes the following claim: “In the field, medics apparently do not necessarily need to follow such policy recommendations by the U.S. Army and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).”

    In the name of transparency, what is the source for this claim?

    Meanwhile, without any indication that they changed anything, since your article was published, Huffington Post again changed their story.

    You quote the article as saying, “After the massacre, on March 20, one part of the Army issued an urgent call to complete the Jan. 17 request from Woodson within six days.”

    Benjamin’s story now reads (in line with criticism he received from me, as I had researched the story deeply and spoke to DoD), “On March 20, after the massacre, a follow-up order was sent to the southwest region that says troops in ‘deployed locations’ may be improperly taking the drug.”

    Characteristic of the sloppy way the article was written, Benjamin/Huff Post implied the March 20 order was zeroing in on troops in “deployed locations” improperly taking the drug, trying to tie it in to the alleged Bales killings. But as the paragraph just above it in the current version notes, the language on problems with soldiers taking mefloquine in deployed locations is in fact a concern raised in the January 17, 2012 original memo from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense/Health Affairs — almost two months before the Afghan killings.

    The lack of notice of the correction or update is typical for the way this bogus story has been handled for some time, and I’m surprised to see Judicial Watch get hooked into such a speculative and pernicious angle on the otherwise important mefloquine issue.

  • Jeffrey Kaye

    I wish to draw attention to errors in your article on the adverse events of mefloquine. While I admire your efforts in securing via FOIA copies of adverse events documentation concerning that drug, there are some major problems with the article.

    Your article relies upon a poorly researched article by Mark Benjamin at Huffington Post. This article was debunked in its essentials by myself, after it was discovered that Benjamin had wrongly linked the January 17 ASD mefloquine review with the Bales killings. Moreover, it sees something sinister in the fact DoD will not reveal medical infomation about Bales, while Benjamin was told on at least three occasions (and I have the emails to show it) that the information could not be released due to HIPAA laws.

    The article criticizing the Huff Post piece can be found at http://truth-out.org/news/item/8624-former-guantanamo-psychiatrist-promotes-dubious-drug-theory-on-afghan-killings

    One other example of the meretriciousness of the Huff Post article, one which you unfortunately repeat in your own piece, concerns a quotation from their article: “[T]he initial review was ordered in January. After the massacre, on March 20, one part of the Army issued an urgent call to complete the Jan. 17 request from Woodson within six days.”

    In fact the “one part of the Army” was a medical command based in the Southern United States that was late in responding to the ASD tasking order given two months earlier. This “urgent call” had nothing to do with Bales, and Bales had zero association with that medical command. In actuality, there is no evidence at all that Bales took mefloquine, as almost everyone in his unit was prescribed a years supply of doxycycline for use as an antimalarial at the they left Washington for deployment.

    In addition, while your article and your research supposedly shows a concern about the misuses of mefloquine, it continues the media silence about the use of mefloquine in an extraordinary fashion upon ALL of the Guantanamo detainees, who were given full treatment doses of the drug upon their arrival at the prison camp, despite the fact Cuba was not a malarial-endemic area, and despite the fact such mass presumptive treatment had never been used with mefloquine, and in fact, was contraindicated for such use by the CDC.

    All the above is well-documented, and was reported by myself, Jason Leopold of Truthout, and in an investigation by Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Policy and Research. See http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=254:exguantanamo-official-was-told-not-to-discuss-policy-surrounding-antimalarial-drug-used-on-detainees

    Judicial Watch’s perpetuation of false claims on the Bales’ story, and its failure to address the actual, proven misuse of the drug on captive prisoners held by the United States, is shameful, and belies the intent of your otherwise important story.

  • jdltactcon

    If you want to help our soldiers check out how many are prescribed Seroquel. I was prescribed Seroquel, and at a high dosage that I was told was normal to help me sleep. I had times where I woke up from a night terror type of dreams so paranoid that someone was breaking into the house. The panick attacks were intense to say the least. I tried to get past the break in time abd settled on 100mg but was only able to get 4-5 hrs sleep out of it. It was some wicked stuff and made it hard to get out of bed. And don’t even get me started on Ambian. By the way I am not in the military, just sharing my experience after a few surgeries and reading of some others in the military who took Seroquel and committed suicide. If you are not able to sleep try Zannax(alprazolam) ER , 1 or 2 .5mg with a couple regular .5mg Zannax(alprazolam) split in half for a quicker effect to make you sleepy. I am 6’3 200lbs and that has worked better for me.


  • Bonnie Crumbaugh


  • Bonnie Crumbaugh

    * I don’t know why the hell it says Bonnie Crumbaugh after I clicked the Publish button, as I am sure my name is Greg.

  • Bonnie Crumbaugh

    WITH ALL DUE RESPECT to my fellow veterans (includiing Somalia) , the Lariam (mefloquine) problem goes back MUCH further than 1992. In NOV. 1979, my army unit at Ft. Bragg NC was on standby alert to help special forces rescue the US hostages in Iran. At that time, we were ordered to take mefloquine, not knowing that we were being used as guinea pigs for this evil experimental drug. Soon after, I started coming down with what are now well-known neuro-psychiatric side effects, then I was reassigned to a MASH (CASH) unit where my symptoms got even worse. But I had no idea it was from this poison pill at the time, and still don’t know about the other guys from my old unit.

    I went 20 YEARS undiagnosed and untreated for major depression before I finally felt suicidal enough to get help. And even though meds help a bit, the symptoms got worse with age, and now at age 54 I can no longer work. Once I figured out from the news it was Lariam, I applied for VA disablitiy in 2008, was denied, and have not heard from the BVA since 2009 about my appeal…and I am OUTRAGED!!!

    So PLEASE…write your Senate & Congress reps today and demand they tax the rich / corporations and FORCE the VA & BVA to PAY all the Lariam-poisoned and disabled veterans NOW (instead of “delay, deny, til the day they die”)

  • rickgall

    For those of use who have been screaming at the DOD, FDA, CDC and our Congressional representatives for the last 5 years or more this is nothing new. It is nice to see the documents come out from a government source though. Like ntyler_410 said though, you only have half of the story; go back to Somalia in 1992 and you will find many with the same symptoms that are listed in the documents.

  • ntyler_410

    I was curious as to why a major group has been ommitted in the statistics? This report basically starts from the year 1997. Tens of thousands of military personnel were administered this drug during the Somali Conflict Operation Restore Hope. I personally know of, and have witnessed side effects immediately after taking the meds. To this day, many Somali Vets live the daily life of battling through various illnesses.

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