Statement on the use of mefloquine in the ADF
30 November 2015
Defence would like to reassure past and present members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who might be concerned about recent media reports on the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine (also known by its trade name LariamTM).
The health and well-being of our people is our highest priority. Our duty of care responsibility is one of the reasons why there is a range of preventative health options available for personnel deploying to malaria affected areas.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease. In 2015, there were an estimated 214 million malaria cases and some 438,000 malaria deaths around the world. It is also a disease of great military significance and endemic in much of Australia’s area of military operations. Our region has large areas of drug resistant malaria and it is in the interest of the individual ADF member and the ADF more generally to have access to effective anti-malarial medication.
Mefloquine is one of three anti-malarial medications approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for malaria prevention in our region. It is Defence’s third line agent, meaning it is only used when one of the other two medications is not appropriate. It is only prescribed in accordance with TGA approved product information and Defence health policy.
The vast majority of ADF members have never been prescribed mefloquine. In the past five years there has been an average of just 25 ADF members per year who demonstrated such intolerance to other anti-malarial medication as to warrant being prescribed mefloquine. It is assessed that less than one per cent of ADF members currently deployed and receiving anti-malarials are taking mefloquine; and within Defence mefloquine is prescribed at a significantly lower rate than in the general community.
Further to this, our health policy requires ADF members be properly informed of the potential side-effects of mefloquine and the drug may only be prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner after the member has provided their informed consent. All members also receive a routine post deployment health and psychological examination three to six months after return to Australia targeting deployment related health issues.
While in the majority of cases the side-effects associated with mefloquine disappear after ceasing the medication, Defence accepts that some people do continue to experience on-going issues. Those who claim to have ongoing problems linked to side-effects from the use of mefloquine are provided with appropriate medical treatment including specialist referral, assessment and treatment. Further to this ADF members who are diagnosed as suffering longer term or permanent side-effects from mefloquine use can also claim compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) if the mefloquine was prescribed for service reasons.
If any ADF member, past or present, is concerned that they might be suffering side-effects from the use of mefloquine Defence encourages them to raise their concerns with a medical practitioner so they may receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.