Recent reports on the use of mefloquine in the ADF
15 January 2016
In recent months there have been numerous reports regarding the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine in the ADF. The nature of the reporting will have caused concern for some current and former serving members of the ADF.
Despite comprehensive responses being provided to a number of media outlets over the past months, the Defence position and supporting evidence provided has continued to be used selectively in many of these reports.
Henry Belot’s most recent article ‘Turnbull help urged over drug for soldiers’ (The Canberra Times, 15 January 2016) is one such example in that it fails to acknowledge crucial elements of the response provided by Defence on this important issue.
Defence takes its duty of care responsibility seriously and so to assist with keeping current and former ADF members informed we have chosen to publish the full response provided to the journalist below.
I understand personal medical records for ADF members involved in the 2001 trial are held only by the Australian Malaria Institute, the organisation that conducted the trials. As such the records can be destroyed once a 15 year period has elapsed, which may be in coming months.
- Can the Department of Defence confirm the medical records of those involved in the mefloquine and tafenoquine trials will not be deleted?
- Will the medical records of those involved in the trial be preserved and accessible after a 15 year period has elapsed?
- Can former soldiers and ADF members involved in the trial request and access their medical records from the Australian Malaria Institute and the Department of Defence?
Response to Q 1, 2 and 3: While current National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines provide for the disposal of trial documents after 15 years, Defence’s policy has always been to store and retain clinical trial documents indefinitely in a secure location.
In the case of the personnel records including medical records of current and serving ADF members, these are retained by Defence in accordance with Defence policy and the Archives Act 1993.
While there was never any intention to dispose of trial records, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force has specifically instructed the Commander Joint Health to ensure that no trial records are to be disposed of.
Current ADF members can request their personnel records including medical records by approaching their supporting Defence health facility. Former ADF members can request access to their service records, including their medical records from Defence Archives by completing the Request for Records downloadable form at http://www.defence.gov.au/Records/
- Will the Inspector-General’s investigation of the mefloquine trial be made public?
Inspector General Australian Defence Force (IGADF) inquiries are conducted in private. Completed IGADF inquiry reports may be released on request to the IGADF on a case by case basis, and with due consideration of privacy and legal issues.
R.J. Griggs, AO, CSC
Vice Admiral, RAN
Vice Chief of Defence Force