Drug given to military should only be used as ‘last resort’

Military personnel were given drug 'Larium' as protection from malaria
Military personnel have been given drug ‘Larium’ as protection from malaria

MORAY MILITARY PERSONNEL who are sent overseas should never be put at risk through drugs they are given as ‘protection’ against malaria.

Local MP Angus Robertson has been speaking out following a report by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

The report accuses the Ministry of Defence of ignoring manufacturer warnings on the risks of using the drug Lariam – and as a result placing service personnel in danger from known side effects.

Committee members had been considering the report for six months – and concluded that the drug should only be used as a “last resort” by the armed forces, prescribed when no alternatives are available and so bringing UK Forces into line with their Nato allies.

“There has been widespread concern about side effects from the use of Lariam – including hallucinations and psychosis,” Mr Robertson said, highlighting the matter as a particular concerns given the high proportion of military men and women living in his Moray constituency.

He added: “The SNP has argued for an outright ban as our preferred solution but the recommendation of the committee that it should be a ‘drug of last resort’ is certainly a big step forward.

“In Moray we have two busy military bases with personnel regularly deployed around the world. We all know that when travelling abroad it is necessary to take preventative drugs and receive vaccinations to reduce risk of serious illness but we also need to know that the drugs being administered are appropriate and that risk for individuals is properly assessed.

“The MoD has a duty of care to all of its personnel and the wellbeing of our troops must be the best it can be. Serious concerns about their ability to deliver their duty of care which were plainly evident during the committee’s inquiry.

“While Lariam is not always used there are clearly identified risks with its use and I hope that the MoD’s response to this inquiry will limit its use even further to ensure our troops get the best possible care, when it comes to the administering of drugs before and during deployments.”

Use of the drug has left the MoD open to legal action from hundreds of servicemen and women who have said their lives were shattered by being given Lariam in the past.

Dr Julian Lewis, who chaired the select committee, said: “It is our firm conclusion that there is neither the need nor any justification for continuing to issue this medication to Service personnel, unless they can be individually assessed in accordance with the manufacturers’ requirements.

“And – most of the time – that is simply impossible, when a sudden, mass deployment of hundreds of troops is necessary.”

Responding last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The vast majority of deployed personnel already receive alternatives to Lariam and, where it is used, it is only prescribed after an individual risk assessment.

“But we have a duty to protect our personnel from Malaria and we welcome the Committee’s conclusion that, in some cases, Lariam will be the most effective way of doing that.”