Antimalarial drug not linked to brain injuries, RMA says

The antimalarial drug mefloquine. Picture: Alamy
The antimalarial drug mefloquine. Picture: Alamy

THE Repatriation Medical Authority has categorically ruled out any link between brain injury and antimalarial drugs after an investigation was concluded by the Australian Government.

The authority have said there is insufficient evidence that exposure to the antimalarial drugs mefloquine, tafenoquine or primaquine causes chronic brain injury.

Retired Colonel Ray Martin said while the RMA's decision was disappointing it was not unexpected.

"Sadly it often takes decades for the devastating effects of toxic substances to be fully recognised," he said.

"The concern today is that hundreds of servicemen and women who have been badly affected by mefloquine are still being misdiagnosed and mistreated, almost two decades on after being used as experimental guinea pigs."

Mr Martin said of those affected, some had been funding their own diagnosis treatment with many more coming in and out of psychiatric care and hospital's while remaining at grave risk.

"They have continually sought proper support from DVA, including research and an outreach program, yet that has been rejected," he said.

"Regardless of the RMA's decision we have injured veterans who need support requiring research, an outreach program and an immediate Gold Card to fund appropriate treatment.

"If the Government is serious about suicide prevention it will provide effective support now."

Townsville Bulletin defence commentator Ross Eastgate said it was a slap in the face for veterans who had been lobbying for many years.

Additionally, the authority said there was insufficient sound medical scientific evidence of any characteristic and persistent pattern of signs and symptoms following exposure to mefloquine, tafenoquine or primaquine that could be a particular kind of disease of, or injury to the brain.

President of the Quinoline Veterans and Families Association, retired major Stuart McCarthy, said the RMA decision was disappointing.

"It's not surprising given the shortcomings of the RMA system noted by the Senate inquiry into veteran suicides," he said

"Regardless of this decision, veterans and families affected by these toxic drugs urgently need the Turnbull Government to fund a dedicated program of health outreach, research and medical care by qualified experts.

"How many more deaths and broken families do there need to be before Mr Turnbull gives us the help we need for serious injuries we sustained while serving our country?"

Topics:  australian army editors picks mefloquine

News Corp Australia

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