50 soldiers sue over malaria medicine

A total of 50 personal injury legal actions have been lodged against the State over the use of the controversial anti-malaria drug, Lariam, by Defence Forces personnel.

The Department of Defence confirmed yesterday a further three personal injury cases relating to Lariam were received this year, in addition to 11 cases in 2015.

A spokeswoman said seven individuals from the 50 claims lodged had not progressed their cases and are now statute-barred.

The increase in Lariam-related cases is shown in the department’s annual report.

It revealed €3.73m was paid out last year in mainly personal injury cases. The payout included €2.2m in settlements, with €2.1m relating to personal injury claims.

The cost of plaintiffs’ legal fees was €985,985 while the State’s own legal fees, in relation to dealing with the personal injury cases totalled €362,368.

Meanwhile, medical fees in 2015 totalled €54,248, while miscellaneous costs amounted to €101,047.

The spend last year on costs connected with legal cases, including settlements, is 12% down on the €4.24m paid out in 2014 that included settlements of €2.65m and €1m in plaintiff’s legal costs.

According to the department, of the 322 personal injury (PI) cases on hand at the end of December 2015, 249 relate to cases taken by present and former members of the Defence Forces. The spokeswoman confirmed 14 cases related to the claims arising from plaintiffs allegedly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

She said: “The highest personal injury payment made on behalf of the Department of Defence in 2015 was €210,000. This payment related to a road traffic accident where the plaintiff received multiple injuries. This figure is inclusive of special damages.”

In relation to Lariam cases, the soldiers involved allege they suffered personal injury as a result of taking the drug while serving overseas. The drug has been issued to Irish soldiers since 2001. It was first prescribed as a malarial preventative measure for a mission in Eritrea.

Use of the drug has been hugely controversial in recent years. Its manufacturers Roche revised its safety information about Lariam several years ago, listing insomnia, anxiety, and depression as possible side effects.

Concerns about the drug led to it being dropped by the US military in 2009.

The department spokeswoman said: “None of the cases relating to Lariam have been heard in court to date. The State Claims Agency manage and provide legal representation in relation to all personal injury cases taken against the minister for defence. Each case is considered by the SCA on its own merits.”

She said: “Lariam remains in the formulary of medications prescribed by the medical corps for Defence Forces personnel on appropriate overseas missions, to ensure that our military personnel can have effective protection from the very serious risks posed by malaria.”

The spokeswoman added: “The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is of the highest priority for the minister of defence as well as the Defence Forces.”


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