Drugs report ‘ kick in guts’ says veteran
A TOWNSVILLE veteran is “disgusted” with a report handed down from a Senate Inquiry into the Australian Defence Force’s use of antimalarial drugs.
The report includes 14 recommendations and was tabled after gathering evidence through public hearings around the country about the impacts of mefloquine and tafenoquine.
Colin Brock, 49, served in the army for 20 years and was prescribed tafenoquine for seven months while deployed to East Timor.
“We stood on that parade ground and were told if we didn’t take it we were not deploying,” he said.
“We’re just all disgusted in the process. We can’t believe what’s happened, and they haven’t listened to the evidence of anyone. “It’s like a kick in the guts.” One of the recommendations made included improving the informed consent process of Defence’s Human Research Ethics Committee.
The senators were concerned ADF members are potentially vulnerable to feeling pressured to participate in research by their superior officers because of the hierarchical nature of the ADF.
“The terms of reference of the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs Human Research Ethics Committee be updated to explicitly include consideration that prospective research participants may be vulnerable to perceived coercion to participate,” the report said.
Former Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment Retired 3 Star Lieutenant General John Caligari said despite soldiers signing consent forms, they most likely didn’t fully understand what it constitutes.
“Most would have seen the boss taking it and signed without fully considering what informed consent is and their right to say no,” he said.
“While they have said there is insufficient evidence linking mefloquine and tafenoquine, there needs to be more thorough research done as it isn’t as clear cut.”
The Senate inquiry is made up of politicians from both sides, who have publicly declared they are not medical professionals.
“The committee needs to state that it is not comprised of … health experts and so cannot make any findings or rulings in relation to the medical causes for health issues,” the report stated.
Almost 20 years ago about 3000 troops were given the antimalarial drugs while deployed in East Timor and Bougainville.