Dr. Remington Nevin wrote this letter to the March 2012 issue of the Army Times publication in the United States arguing against its misleading headline. For those who need reminding, Dr. Nevin has been a steadfast advocate for all military personal and veterans who have suffered from the adverse effects of the anti-malaria medication Mefloquine or Lariam. His scientific studies are part of the breakthrough in banning the distribution of this drug to the U.S. Army, though other services have not followed suit to date. BONNIE
Malaria: the Good News
from the Army Times (A Gannett Company)(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James Mercure)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Regarding “Malaria cases rise among soldiers in Afghanistan,” (Feb. 29, 2012):
I am surprised that the military may have failed to notice the good news about malaria rates in Afghanistan. From 2006 to 2008, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center reported 179 cases of malaria among troops in Afghanistan. Yet, from 2009 to 2011, AFHSC reported 170 such cases. This drop is more significant given that total deployed troop strength more than tripled between these periods, from 78,900 to 255,400 according to mid-year counts from the Brookings Institution.
And although last year’s malaria diagnoses rates rose slightly, they remain extremely low by historical standards, affecting only one service member per 1,000 per year. Potentially life-threatening mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety affect well over 10 times as many service members in combat zones.
Tragically, these problems may have been made worse by our choice of anti-malarial medications. Mefloquine, developed by the Army in in the 1970s, is known to greatly increase the risk of anxiety and panic attacks, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concede that these side effects may “confound the diagnosis and management of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The Army in 2009 wisely prohibited the widespread use of mefloquine in combat zones.
Malaria remains a threat to soldiers, but in Afghanistan, as elsewhere, this risk can be better managed by using safer medications that do not risk worsening our Army’s existing and life-threatening mental health epidemic.Dr. Remington Nevin Fort Polk, Louisianna