The House of Commons Defence Committee has today published its report into the use of Lariam for military personnel.
The report is heavily critical of the MoD’s failure to adhere to its own policies in respect of the way Lariam has been prescribed and makes several recommendations for the use of Lariam in the future.
Failures by the MoD
The Committee condemns the MoD’s prescription of a drug known to have neuropsychiatric side effects and vestibular disorders without face-to-face interviews as “a lamentable weakness in the MoD’s Duty of Care towards service personnel.”
The Committee accepts the anecdotal evidence that was heard during the course of the inquiry that the MoD ignored the conditions which needed to be met for Lariam to be prescribed safely in dispensing medication to service personnel on mass without individual risk assessments taking place.
The Committee also criticises the current care provided to those who have suffered with side-effects after taking Lariam and deems the current arrangements inadequate.
Recommendations – ‘drug of last resort’
The report concludes that Lariam should be designated as a ‘drug of last resort’ and that it should only be prescribed where:
- An individual is unable to tolerate any of the available alternatives;
- Only after a face-to-face Individual Risk Assessment has been conducted; and
- Only after the patient has been made aware of the alternative medication available and has been given the choice between Lariam and another suitable anti-malarial drug.
The Committee found that there is no justification for the continued use of Lariam save where these three conditions have been met. While the committee does not call for an outright ban, it is clear that the continued use of Lariam is highly unlikely save for exceptional cases where there are no alternatives.
The Committee also recommends that the MoD establish a single point of contact for all current and former Service personnel who have concerns about their experience of Lariam and that this point of contact should be widely publicised. This hopefully means that those who have suffered with side-effects will now receive the appropriate care and treatment.
Where it has failed to comply with its own policies and risk assessments, the MoD should be held accountable to those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, with the harmful side-effects of Lariam.