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Posted by on Mar 18, 2012 in Society, War | 2 comments

Robert Bales and Big Pharma

I did an update on the Robert Bales post below to link to this post at Cannonfire on the malaria drug Lariam but I think it deserves a little more attention. The first link was to this article in Counterpunch:

Was Staff Sergeant Shooter On Dangerous Malaria Drug?

Few remember the grisly summer of 2002 when four Fort Bragg soldiers’ wives were murdered within six weeks of each other and the malaria drug, Lariam, widely prescribed to troops deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq, was suspected as a factor.

Few also probably remember the case of Andrew Pogany, a staff sergeant who volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2003, but was sent back to Fort Carson after experiencing PTSD-like panic symptoms and hallucinations related to violence in theater. He and his attorney were later able to prove his reaction was a probable effect of Lariam. Pogany went on to help other soldiers who have experienced extreme PTSD and/or drug responses.

Troops who have used Lariam blame the drug for nightmares, depression, paranoia, auditory hallucinations and other psychiatric symptoms including complete mental breakdowns, says the Associated Press. Family members have blamed for their loved ones’ suicides. The effects of Lariam can last for “weeks,months, and even years,” after it’s stopped, warns the VA. The drug “should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder,” reported Army Times, which describes “many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Yet even though the Air Force bans pilots from using Lariam, and the Army is substituting a safer drug, the Navy and Marine Corps have actually increased prescriptions for Lariam the Associated Press reported last year. And, “numbers could be higher still because prescriptions filled overseas are frequently not counted.”

So, we are not only putting our troops through the hell of multiple deployments we are giving them drugs that make things worse.  Of course the drug maker, Roche, is making lots of money so it shouldn’t be too surprising that their studies found that only 1 in 10,000 suffered psychological affects.    Other more objective studies have found it’s a lot more than that.

Medical and scientific reports were documenting dangers associated with Lariam as early as 1987. For instance, a study published in the British Medical Journal (31 August 1996, 313:13) found that “About 0.7% (1 in 140) travellers taking mefloquine can expect to have a neuropsychiatric adverse event unpleasant enough to temporarily prevent them from carrying out their day to day activities, compared with 0.009% (1 in 1100) taking chloroquine and proguanil. [emphasis mine]” Overbosch and colleagues (2001) reported adverse events attributed to mefloquine in 42% of 486 people studied. Neuropsychiatric adverse events were found in 29% of the subjects, with 19% being considered “moderate or severe”.

Sgt Bales has a good lawyer and perhaps this and other issues will finally see light in what is bound to be a high profile trial.  At least we can hope.

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