75 sol­diers su­ing over anti-malaria drug Lariam

Irish Independent - - News - Shane Phe­lan

THE State could be forced to in­tro­duce a multi-mil­lion euro re­dress scheme for Defence Forces per­son­nel given the con­tro­ver­sial anti-malar­ial drug Lariam amid a mount­ing num­ber of High Court law­suits.

Five per­sonal in­jury ac­tions were is­sued against the Min­is­ter for Defence on Wed­nes­day for neg­li­gence and breach of duty to­wards for­mer sol­diers who al­lege they suf­fered se­ri­ous side ef­fects af­ter be­ing given the drug on over­seas mis­sions.

The Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent has learned the law firm rep­re­sent­ing the com­plainants, Cole­man Le­gal Part­ners, has in­struc­tions to is­sue 75 sets of pro­ceed­ings.

The firm says it has 350 clients af­fected by Lariam.

Many of the cases raise issues about the man­ner in which the drug was pre­scribed.

It is al­leged to have been is­sued in a “con­veyor belt” man­ner for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod, with­out in-depth in­di­vid­ual con­sul­ta­tions.

The lit­i­gants are rep­re­sented by solic­i­tor Nor­man Spicer, a for­mer Defence Forces mem­ber who ex­pe­ri­enced ad­verse side ef­fects af­ter be­ing ad­min­is­tered Lariam while serv­ing in Chad.

“I be­lieve it to have been ad­min­is­tered in such a way that falls be­low stan­dards which one might ex­pect to re­ceive. A lot of the sol­diers I have been speak­ing to have suf­fered very badly,” said Mr Spicer.

In one of the cases, a for­mer fe­male Defence Forces mem­ber al­leges she suf­fered from sui­ci­dal thoughts, had to seek psy­chi­atric treat­ment and now has dif­fi­culty se­cur­ing and main­tain­ing full-time em­ploy­ment.

She also says she ex­pe­ri­enced headaches, para­noia, ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, in­som­nia, de­pres­sion, dizzy spells and ver­tigo.

Lariam was given to her dur­ing three tours in malar­ial re­gions.

The Depart­ment of Defence de­clined to say whether any con­sid­er­a­tion was be­ing given to a re­dress scheme and said it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment on in­di­vid­ual cases or le­gal strate­gies.

It also would not clar­ify whether changes had been made in re­cent years to the man­ner in which Defence Forces mem­bers are as­sessed in terms of suit­abil­ity to re­ceive Lariam.

In a state­ment, it said Lariam was one of three anti-malar­ial drugs in use in the Defence Forces. It said “sig­nif­i­cant pre­cau­tions” were taken by med­i­cal of­fi­cers in as­sess­ing the suit­abil­ity of in­di­vid­u­als to take any anti-malar­ial med­i­ca­tion and that per­son­nel were in­di­vid­u­ally screened.

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