Irish soldiers should be offered alternative anti-malaria drugs, says PDFORRA

The group is reacting to criticism facing the British Army over their use of the drug Lariam

Irish soldiers should be offered alternative anti-malaria drugs, says PDFORRA

File photo of Lieutenant Tim Cunningham boarding a Swedish Air Force C130 Hercules at Uppsala, Sweden | Image: Forces

Irish soldiers should be given a choice of whether to use a controversial anti-malaria drug, according to the group that represents Irish Defence Forces

PDFORRA is reacting to criticism by a British Defence Committee over use of the drug Lariam in the UK.

The drug is also used for the Irish Defence Forces on overseas missions.

Manufacturers of the drug - Roche - list some of the common side-effects as abnormal dreams, insomnia, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and self-endangering behaviour.

The company also warns that adverse reactions may occur and persist up to several months after discontinuing use.

The General Secretary of PD Forra Gerry Rooney says Ireland should follow UN advice, which recommends alternative drugs to be used for soldiers who suffer from the side-effects.

Rooney also explained the reasons why the Irish Defence Forces are continuing to use the drug.

He said based on the findings of a specialist working group, Lariam was deemed to be the “most effective anti-malaria drug” given the nature of military service where supply links to medication may be disrupted.

"Alternatives are given when people are deployed for very short periods of time," he added.

"But the tendency for full missions is for people to go on Lariam".

Former soldier Anthony Moore from Drimnagh in Dublin was put on drug when he served with the Irish army in Liberia and Chad before 2008.

He says he still feels the side effects like suicidal ideation and depression and thinks the Irish Defence Minister should order an inquiry.

“I would also ask him to set aside professional people to help those suffering the side effects of Lariam”, he said.

In a statement issued to Newstalk, the Department of Defence said: "The use of and information on medications is kept under ongoing review".

"A working group is currently examining issues arising in relation to the use of Lariam. 

"In its earlier work in 2013, the group investigated all the various issues surrounding the use of Lariam and obtained advice from leading medical experts. Those experts concurred with the practices followed by the Defence Forces in prescribing Lariam.

"The group is currently examining developments in the context of the Defence Forces use of malaria chemoprophylaxis with particular focus on updated patient safety information, changes to Summary Product Characteristics, changes in product licensing/authorisation, identification of any new anti-malarial medications on the market and national and international expert advices on the use of malaria chemoprophylaxis and its usage in other Armed Forces.  

"The group is continuing to engage with international experts with a view to concluding its report as soon as possible."

This article has been amended to include a statement from the Department of Defence