MOD criticised over anti-malaria drug issued to troops

The committee said there was evidence advice about the drug was ignored by the army Credit: PA

MPs have strongly criticised the Ministry of Defence over a controversial anti-malaria drug issued to overseas troops, despite concerns over severe side effects.

The Commons Defence Committee said there was "strong anecdotal evidence" that stringent manufacturer-issued conditions for Lariam had been ignored by the armed forces.

Now it has called for the drug - associated in a minority of users with an increased risk of psychosis and anxiety - to be designated a "drug of last resort".

The committee's findings could open the way for hundreds of civil cases from military personnel who have suffered the effects of Lariam.

While Lariam is not the foremost anti-malarial drug used by army, at least 17,368 personnel were prescribed it at least once between the start of April 2007 and the end of March 2015, according to official MoD figures.

What is malaria?

  • Malaria is a serious tropical disease spread by mosquitoes which if not treated can be fatal

  • Symptoms include: high temperature, sweats and chill, headache, vomiting, muscle pain, diarrhoea

Malaria can be potentially fatal if not treated properly Credit: PA

The committee said it had received strong anecdotal evidence that a body of current and former service personnel had been adversely affected by its use and that the arrangements for supporting them were "inadequate".

While the manufacturer, Roche, had issued "clear guidance" that individual risk assessments should be conducted before prescribing, the committee said the MoD appeared to have interpreted this to include "desk-based" assessments using medical records rather than face-to-face interviews.

It said it was "deeply disturbing" that some personnel apparently preferred to throw away the Lariam they had been prescribed and run the risk of contracting malaria, rather than take the drug.

Committee chairman Julian Lewis added: "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".