Inaccurate reporting in The Australian
24 August 2015
I believe it is important to go on the record following the allegations made in Paul Cleary’s article ‘ADF ‘was unethical’ in drug trial on troops’ (The Australian, 24 August 2015).
Despite a comprehensive response provided to the journalist last week, the article contains a number of errors of fact, unsubstantiated claims and makes a number of allegations about the ethics of a trial conducted by Defence in 2001-2 into the use of the anti-malarial drug ‘Mefloquine’. The article quotes Major Stuart McCarthy and an un-named “top” US expert as having accused the ADF of breaching medical ethics.
The 2001-2 trial of Mefloquine was conducted under the full scrutiny of the Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee. It was a voluntary trial and prior to any ADF member taking part, all members were provided with a comprehensive information sheet so that they could provide their informed consent to participate.
Defence records indicate that Major McCarthy was not a participant in the trial.
Defence takes its duty of care responsibility seriously which is one of the reasons that there is a range of preventative health options available for personnel deploying to Malaria affected areas. Like any drug, Mefloquine has side effects, these are well known. It is an approved drug under Therapeutic Goods Administration guidelines and it is only prescribed to a small number of personnel who show sensitivity to other anti-malarial drugs. Our personnel who are prescribed Mefloquine are warned about the possibility of severe central nervous system adverse effects and advised to immediately contact their medical officer if they experience anxiety, depression, restlessness or confusion. In these cases Mefloquine is ceased and an alternative anti-malarial prescribed.
Vice Chief of Defence Force