Sunday, January 27, 2008

VA issued warning on Lariam in 2004

VA Warns Doctors About Lariam
United Press International
25 June 2004
WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning doctors to watch for long-term mental problems and other health effects from an anti-malaria drug given to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.The drug is mefloquine, known by the brand name Lariam, which has been given to tens of thousands of soldiers since the war on terrorism began. Some of those soldiers say it has provoked severe mental and physical problems including suicidal and violent behavior, psychosis, convulsions and balance disorders.

Last year the Food and Drug Administration began warning that problems might last "long after" someone stops taking it.

The VA warned its own doctors Wednesday that the drug "may rarely be associated with certain long-term chronic health problems that persist for weeks, months, and even years after the drug is stopped," according to a summary of published studies by a VA panel of experts. The summary accompanies an "information letter" from the VA's acting undersecretary for health, Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, to healthcare professionals who treat veterans.Veterans' advocates praised the VA but said the Pentagon seems to have lost track of who has taken the drug -- making the size of a potentially serious problem unclear.While little mefloquine was used in the first Gulf War, advocates said a similar dearth of medical data has thwarted efforts to get to the bottom of Gulf War Syndrome for a decade. Investigators simply did not know what drugs or vaccines -- possible contributors to that syndrome -- were given to solders.

"We are pleased that the VA is taking a proactive approach to this situation," said Steve Smithson, assistant director of the American Legion's National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission."It is no secret that the military did not do a good job of record keeping in the first Gulf War," said Smithson. "Early reports on Lariam make me concerned that we did not learn the lessons from the first Gulf War in that it is not being documented in health records."

Sgt. Marvin Lee Branch

But last Christmas, only months after the initial wave of killings, Fort Bragg was again the scene of tragedy when another service member, Sgt. Marvin Lee Branch, allegedly tried to murder his wife. How the situation was handled is indicative of the larger problem. Restraining orders protecting Carol Branch were dismissed within weeks of the attack, and she complained of receiving very little support: "I'm trying to save my life and I've got to beg (the Army) for help? I can see how those other mothers died. They were trapped." Branch said her husband had a history of abusive behavior, but he became uncontrollably violent upon returning from duty in Afghanistan. An Army spokesman confirmed that soldiers in Sgt. Branch's unit had taken Lariam, but would not confirm whether Branch had as well.

Anthony Mertz

Anti-malaria drug cited in Illinois murder
By Mark Benjamin and Dan Olmsted
From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
Published 2/21/2003 3:33 PM

CHARLESTON, Ill., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The lawyer for a former Marine convicted of murder will tell an Illinois jury next week that an anti-malaria drug associated with psychotic behavior and aggression triggered the killing, and he should be spared the death penalty.

The case marks the first time that side effects of the drug, called Lariam, have been raised in front of a U.S. jury in a criminal case. Some believe the drug could have played a role in a string of killings by Fort Bragg soldiers last summer, though the Army calls that unlikely.

Anthony Mertz, 26, was convicted Feb. 12 of killing fellow Eastern Illinois University student Shannon McNamara in her Charleston, Ill., apartment on June 12, 2001. The jury is now hearing testimony before deciding whether to sentence him to death.

"When the Marines gave Lariam to my client they set in motion a chain of events that caused the death of Shannon McNamara," defense counsel David Williams told United Press International Friday.

This is from Jonathan Shay in his interview with PBS on a Soldier's Heart

Psychiatrist and author, Odysseus in America

And my personal theory of what lay behind those horrible, horrible murder suicides at Fort Bragg a couple of years ago, these were all staff NCOs … and officers in Special Operations, which is the most macho of all the formations. And what's more, they had been deployed repeatedly into very dangerous, very confusing and ambiguous operations, and had come back with injuries that they could not ask for help with, because they were afraid it would end their careers. And just by coincidence, a number of them broke at the same time, and broke in this catastrophic way. That's my thought about what happened there. This is not likely to be happening with junior enlisted people who I think can get help.
from Front Line Soldier's Heart

4 Wives Slain In 6 Weeks At Fort Bragg
Husbands Blamed For Deaths, 3 Of The Men Served In Afghanistan

FORT BRAGG, N.C., July 26, 2002

Fayetteville, N.C., police said that was when Sgt. 1st Class Rigoberto Nieves — a soldier in the 3rd Special Forces Group who had been back from Afghanistan just two days — shot his wife, Teresa, and then himself in their bedroom.

Officials said Nieves had requested leave to resolve personal problems

Sheriff's investigators said Jennifer Wright was strangled June 29. Her husband, Master Sgt. William Wright of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, reported her missing two days later. Then on July 19, he led investigators to her body in Hoke County and was charged with murder.

Wright, who had been back from Afghanistan about a month, had moved out of his house and was living in the barracks.

The couple met in high school in Mason, Ohio, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. They married shortly after Jennifer graduated.

Her father, Archie Watson, said the Wrights had talked recently about divorce. Jennifer had grown tired of military life, her father said, but William Wright was reluctant to let her go.

Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Floyd shot his wife, Andrea, a native of Alliance, Ohio, then killed himself in their Stedman home.

The Fayetteville Observer reported Floyd was a member of Delta Force, the secretive anti-terrorism unit based at Fort Bragg. He returned from Afghanistan in January, officials said. The couple's three children were in Ohio visiting relatives at the time of the deaths.

In the fourth case, Army Sgt. Cedric Ramon Griffin, 28, was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree arson in the July 9 death of his wife, Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler said.

Marilyn Griffin, 32, was found dead in the burning home. Her two children escaped the fire.

Third Bragg soldier took malaria drug

By Mark Benjamin and Dan Olmsted
From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk

Published 8/17/2002 3:00 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Friends of the three Fort Bragg soldiers suspected of killing their wives this summer say the men exhibited unusual anger and incoherence after returning from Afghanistan where they were given an anti-malaria drug associated with aggression and mental problems.

One of the soldiers was "almost incoherent" and visibly shaking while describing marital problems to a neighbor. Another became unable to control his anger at his wife in public, startling those who knew him. A third puzzled his new neighbors with his strange behavior.

Read and comment on this story from UPI on the Army's three month study the slayings of four Army wives at Fort Bragg this summer which concluded that Lariam was not a factor in the murders.

The report has sparked claims the military is covering up problems with a drug it invented and licensed. "Our military said there is no problem with (Lariam) because they developed it," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. "The hardest thing to do is develop a drug and then admit there is a problem."

Lariam is the most effective anti-malarial drug known and has been used by thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers over the past ten years. However, the drug's potential side effects are rarely reported and include agitation, depression and aggression. In July, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., called for an independent medical investigation to protect the health of Peace Corps volunteers, who are routinely prescribed the drug.
Read our ongoing coverage of the Lariam controversy at:
The Lariam Controversy
Read the story about the results of the Fort Bragg study at:
Army Fort Bragg study faces scrutiny*

So why is it still being used?

Malaria Chemoprophylaxis for Coalition Troops in Afghanistan -

Sep 18, 2007

Although mefloquine may be the drug most often selected, Canadian Forces members have the option of using either mefloquine weekly or doxycycline daily, Journal of American Medical Association (subscription),

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