Concerns raised about soldiers taking Lariam

Minister for Defence to receive working group report on anti-malaria drug

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said consideration was being given to alternatives to Lariam.   Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said consideration was being given to alternatives to Lariam. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A working group on the prevention of malaria among Irish soldiers serving abroad is due to report to Minister for Defence Simon Coveney later this year, the Dáil was told.

Mr Coveney said consideration had been given to alternatives to the drug, Lariam, but there were no easy answers.

“It is not as if one switches from Lariam to something that gives equally effective results with no side effects,’’ he said. “Those drugs do not exist.’’

The Minister said a balanced decision had to be made in the interests of the safety of Irish troops.

He was replying to Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, who asked why the Defence Forces continued to use Lariam.

“Does the Minister know the number of people in the Defence Forces who claim this has triggered in them psychotic or severe depression?’’ he asked. “Other countries have stopped using this drug.’’

Mr Coveney said the issue had been raised regularly in the Dáil and also debated in parliaments in other countries.

Serious disease

“When we send our troops into conflict zones that are affected by malaria, we need to ensure we have the best medical treatment for those soldiers.’’

Mr Coveney said he had repeatedly stated he was not a qualified medical doctor.

“Politicians should not be making a decision on this matter except on the basis of the medical advice available,’’ he added. “This has been my approach.’’

He said the choice of medication for overseas deployment, including Lariam, was a decision made by medical officers in the Defence Forces, having regard to the specific circumstances of the mission and the individual member concerned.

He said the Defence Forces were aware of the range of reported side effects attaching to all anti-malarial medications, and that significant precautions were taken by medical officers.

A medical risk assessment for Lariam was carried out on an individual basis, he added.