Check to see if you were on a mission that was issued Mefloquine or Lariam

Under the Access of Information, this response was provided on October 7, 2002 to an inquiry made to Health Canada.

Between 1990 and Oct. 7, 2002, 164 serving members of the Canadian Forces (CF), both Regular Force and Reserve, committed suicide. Between January 1, 1997 and October 7, 2002, 72 CF members committed suicide. Of the 72 individuals:

  1. Two committed suicide while on mission abroad,
  2. 22 committed suicide following the mission, and
  3. Two individuals who were required to take mefloquine committed suicide after the mission.

Between 1990 and Oct. 7, 2002, mefloquine was administered or recommended to be administered to members of the Canadian Forces to prevent malaria on the following missions (in alphabetical order) — this does not cover the current Mission to Afghanistan:

  1. African Great Lakes Multinational Force
  2. Campaign Against Terrorism
  3. International Force in East Timor
  4. International Military Assistance Team in Sierra-Leone
  5. Relief Airlift Operation in Ethiopia
  6. United Nations Angola Verification Mission
  7. United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda
  8. United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
  9. United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea
  10. United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic
  11. United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  12. United Nations Observer Mission in Somalia I
  13. United Nations Observer Mission in Somalia II
  14. United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
  15. United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda
  16. United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
  17. United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor
  18. United Task Force in Somalia 

In the general population, Hoffman-LaRoche reported in 1992 that 35,000 Canadians had been issued a course of mefloquine antimalaria treatment. Three hundred and twenty (320) reported adverse effects to their physicians. Six hundred and twenty-three (623) adverse events were reported by these  320 patients.  

 Areas affected:

  • Central nervous system – 30.0% of the 623 events
  • Psychiatric disorders – 27.0% of the 623 events
  • Gastrointestinal system – 29.7% of the 623 events

 Most common adverse effects reported:

  • Nausea 29.7%
  • Headache 22.5%
  • Vertigo 18.4%
  • Somnolence 10.9%
  • Insomnia 7.2%
  • Diarrhea 5.9%
  • Dizziness 5.0%
  • Lightheadedness 4.4%
  • Vomiting 4.0%
  • Fatigue 3.1%

Of the 320 complaints, nine patients reported serious adverse events. Of these nine, two experienced psychosis and one suffered depression. This is why Hoffman-Roche claimed only one in 10,000 were likely to develop adverse effects, but many adverse effects were never reported to general physicians or to CF medics because soldiers did not want to appear to be “goldbricking.” Now we have learned that over-the-counter drugs–eg. gravol, immodium–to relieve symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, vertigo, insomnia) or alcohol interfered with the body being able to pass out the Mefloquine which collected in the brain and became toxic.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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One Response to Check to see if you were on a mission that was issued Mefloquine or Lariam

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | Homecoming Vets at the Crossroads of Humanity

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