It is “baffling” that Defence Forces personnel are still being prescribed with anti-malarial drug Lariam, while the State faces dozens of personal injury claims due to alleged side effects of the medicine, the Dáil has heard.
The recent announcement that the Cabinet has approved sending the Army Ranger Wing to the UN Mission in Mali has brought renewed questions about the use of Lariam, which has been blamed for side effects such as depression and suicidal ideation among Defence Forces personnel.
Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley has asked Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe if the Army Ranger Wing contingent to Mali will be prescribed Lariam.
“I am not a medical expert. I am not a trained doctor and it would be totally inappropriate for me or for any Member of this House to recommend what anti-malarial drug would be used in sub-Saharan Africa or on some of the missions in which our personnel are participating.
"That is a matter for the health experts within the Defence Forces. They are the people who make the recommendation. They have responsibility for this area.
"They consider the mission our personnel will participate in and take into consideration the individual members who will be deployed on a mission and their medical circumstances at that time,” Mr Kehoe said.
Mr Buckley said it is “baffling that the drug is still being prescribed to Defence Forces personnel".
“I am not a doctor either but it has been well documented that the side effects of Lariam are very advanced and adverse. We know of many other countries that have stopped prescribing this anti-malarial drug.
"We also know that many countries have apologised to their defence forces for having prescribed it. What solace or guarantees will the Defence Forces get from this process?
"If Lariam is a cheap version of an anti-malarial drug for soldiers, will officers be prescribed a better brand?” Mr Buckley said.
Mr Buckley asked Mr Kehoe if two reports completed by a working group established to investigate the Lariam issue would be published. Mr Kehoe said the working group reports were prepared in the context of litigation and will not be published.