Rita O'Reilly blogs ahead of tonight's Prime Time Special from the RTÉ Investigations Unit:
Malaria is a killer disease and it’s no surprise that four anti-malarials medications including Mefloquine (licensed in Ireland as Lariam) are listed as WHO (World Health Organisation) Essential Medicines. But Lariam is controversial, not least because its manufacturer, Roche, says its safety profile is characterised by a predominance of neuropsychiatric adverse reactions.
Roche reports rare cases of suicide associated with the drug but says no causal link has been proven.
Following months of research, the RTÉ Investigations Unit has uncovered evidence of a higher risk of suicide among soldiers returning from overseas duty. Tonight, we look at a cluster of suicides within years of return from peacekeeping overseas. We spoke to the families of soldiers who had killed themselves. Three of those families speak in tonight’s report.
We took our findings to experts in the U.S.A, the U.K. and here in Ireland. Preventive medicine specialist Dr Remington Nevin, (former US Army Major) a leading researcher into mefloquine toxicity, who analysed the data, says the findings demand urgent investigation. The former Consultant Psychiatrist to the US Army Surgeon General, Dr Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, (Col, Retired) has said the new analysis highlights the critical importance of having a thorough academic exploration of the cases and epidemiology. A world expert on anti-malarials, Dr. Ashley Croft (Lt Col) just retired from the MoD last month, tells the programme the use of this anti-malarial by military forces is now “indefensible”.
See more on tonight’s Prime Time, 21:35, RTÉ One.
For those affected by the issues raised in the programme, the helplines below can provide help:
The Samaritans offer a 24 hour listening service and can be contacted on 1850 60 90 90 or
0845 790 90 90 in Northern Ireland.
Console offers 24 hour help for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide and can be contacted on
1800 201 890
Aware offers help for depression and can be contacted seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm.