An anti-malaria drug was developed by the U.S. Army in the 1970’s. It was then administered to U.S. service personnel beginning in the 1980’s. It has now been found to create serious side effects in its users. Many of the side effects mimic the symptoms of PTSD. This finding has caused many medical professionals to wonder if the current diagnosis of post 9/11 service members suffering from PTSD may in fact be the results of the malaria drug, Meflouquine. Mefluoquine is also sold under the name Lariam.
Meflouquine was prescribed to American troops until 2009, spanning decades of use by the military. According to former Army physician and researcher at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, Dr. Remington Nevin, reports that the drug “may increase the firing of neurons and cause damage to the brain stem.”
The symptoms of Meflouquine poisoning include: anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations and psychosis. These symptoms are very similar to PTSD symptoms. Researchers now believe the drug is the culprit for many suffering veterans with the diagnosis of PTSD. Therefore, PTSD treatments will not work to alleviate the damage.
The devastation to the brain and brain stem can last for years. The damage can even be permanent. In 2013, the FDA changed its ruling for the label affixed to the drug. The label has since been replaced with a box warning which states the serious psychiatric and nerve side effects possible with the use of the drug.
A June profile published in ‘Drug Safety Case Reports’ reported the experience of one Navy man who was previously diagnosed with PTSD from his deployment. However, treatment did little to alleviate his symptoms. He was referred to Walter Reed National Medical Center. It was there that Melflouquine poisoning was suspected.
British officials have called for a ban on prescribing Meflouquine to their troops.
But, as of this writing the drug is licensed for sale in 42 countries. The drug is still used when others fail. In 2003, the U.S. military was administering nearly 50,000 prescriptions to troops. By 2015, the number of prescriptions in the military for Meflouquine fell to 216.
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