The Kill Pill: Murder, Madness, and the Army’s Mefloquine Cover-up
By Dan Olmsted
Age of Autism, April 23, 2012
It’s great that the military, the VA, and the mainstream media are giving more attention to the awful mental health problems plaguing soldiers and veterans. What’s not so great — in fact, awful — is their continuing failure to recognize the role played by the military’s own toxic anti-malaria drug.
Until that occurs, the toll will continue to rise.
The federal government has a long and sorry record of ignoring, suppressing, and covering up the truth about the drug, called mefloquine and also known by the brand name Lariam. You can almost hear the silence as the Pentagon holds its collective breath in hopes that Sgt. Robert Bales, who allegedly went on a rampage last month in Afghanistan, killing 17 villagers and setting some of them, including children, on fire, was not prescribed the drug.
That answer will emerge in time, though many have wondered why the Army won’t say so if he simply didn’t take it. Either way, the renewed attention from the Bales case should not be allowed to pass without reprising the military’s unconscionable history with the drug it invented and licensed to Roche pharmaceuticals, and the role of other federal agencies, in particular the FDA and CDC, in approving and recommending it.
This is important because the effects are far worse and far more frequent than the military cares to admit (just check the official product label for “suicide,” “hallucinations,” “psychotic or paranoid reactions,” and “aggression”), and because (also per the label) they can last “long after” someone stops taking it. In many cases, that means forever. What was once a problem for deployed soldiers is now a problem for more and more reservists and veterans every day.
It is also important because the failures surrounding this drug go straight to the issue of pattern and practice — whether the federal government is doing its job in protecting citizens from unsafe medicines. (The drug’s manufacturer, Swiss-based Roche, has much to answer for as well. It stopped distributing it in the U.S. a couple of years ago but a generic remains available.)
Mefloquine has been damaging U.S. troops often enough for long enough – since the Somalia action in the early 1990s, soon after the drug was hurriedly approved in 1989 – that there are now thousands of veterans with very clear mefloquine toxicity ranging from chronic dizziness to psychosis to unrelenting depression. Some of them – an undetermined but not insubstantial number – are now dead, and some of those have taken with them family, friends, and bystanders who happened to get in the way of a full-blown mefloquine rage.
Now the VA is adding hundreds of psychiatrists to help veterans with their mental health nightmares. Nicholas Kristof of the agenda-setting New York Times has called attention to the veteran suicide rate of one every 80 minutes. The drugging of service members with everything from Adderall to Prozac is being recognized for the problem it is. But a widely prescribed pill that can cause suicide and homicide? It is still strangely absent from this discussion.
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Afghanistan, Army, Chief Warrant Officer William Howell, Depression, Fort Carson, Hallucination, Investigation, Iraq, Laraim, Larium, Mefloquine, Mental Health, Military Suicide, Murder-suicide, Navy, Psychotic, PTSD, Report, Roche pharmaceuticals, side effects, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, Stress, Veterans, Veterans Affairs