Cork soldier sues state over use of malarial drug on tour of duty

A Cork soldier who was given the anti-malarial drug Lariam for an overseas tour of duty in Chad has sued the State in the High Court.

Father of three, Anthony Cole, who served for 33 years in the Defence Forces has claimed he has not felt ’normal’ since his five months tour of duty in Chad in 2009 and suffers headaches, nightmares, mood swings and irritability.

His counsel Gerry Healy SC opening the case said Anthony Cole, who was based mainly at Collins Barracks, Cork loved his life in the Army but got an adverse reaction to the medical treatment given by the Defence Forces to protect him from getting malaria while on a tour of duty in Chad, in equatorial Africa.

Army Sergeant, Anthony Cole from Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts today after the opening day of a High Court action for damages. Pic: Collins Courts

Counsel said the soldier suffered from very severe psychiatric symptoms and still suffers from "appalling symptoms".

Anthony Cole, Duneoin, Carrigaline, Cork has sued the Minister for Defence and the Attorney General after he was given Lariam, also known as Mefloquine for two weeks before he travelled, while on his tour of duty and for a number of weeks on his return home from Chad.

He has claimed that when he arrived in Chad his sleep became very disturbed and for no obvious reason he became unhappy and exceedingly irritable. He has claimed he felt so bad in himself that after three weeks he seriously considered returning home but persisted with the five month tour of duty.

He has further claimed he has never felt normal since then and his life has been thrown in to complete disarray and he suffers nightmares, headaches, mood swings and depression.

He alleges there was an alleged failure to adequately warn members of the Defence Forces including himself of the side effects of the anti malarial drug Lariam and an alleged failure to warn him of the dangers and risks associated the medication.

The claims are denied and it is contended there was an alleged delay in bringing the proceedings.

Mr Healy said Mr Cole who has since left the Army had 33 years service including three tours overseas to the Lebanon.

During his career Mr Cole (51) reached the rank of sergeant and Counsel said according to his Army file, he had an unblemished record with exemplary conduct recorded.

The anti malarial drug Lariam he said is not on the broader market, but still is used by military authorities. Mr Healy said the side effects of Lariam are not just temporary psychiatric symptoms but can last after a person stops taking the drug and go on indefinitely. Counsel said whether Lariam is a good or bad drug is not the main point in the case but that it should have been administered in a medical setting and monitored by people who know the adverse reaction.

The drug he said was first given to Mr Cole at a training programme for duty overseas.

Mr Cole , Counsel said collected the drug at a medical post “ like you would collect a piece of kit.”

He said before his return from Chad the soldier had a medical in which he answered yes to the the question if he had a significant adverse reaction to Lariam. Counsel said the soldier was given the drug to take for another four weeks after his return home . Mr Healy said his symptoms got worse and the soldier had to hide it from his children and tried to get on with his life.

The case before Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon continues on Tuesday.

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