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Veterans plan to sue over military use of mefloquine

Two law firms are planning to launch lawsuits against the federal government over an anti-malarial drug it issued to soldiers when deployed overseas
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Two law firms are planning to launch lawsuits against the federal government over an anti-malarial drug it issued to soldiers while they were deployed overseas.

The medication in question is called mefloquine and John Dowe said he still suffering from side effects after being ordered to take it while serving in Somalia.

"Long term insomnia, hyper-vigilance, anxiety," he listed. "I couldn't fit back in with society and I couldn't bond with my family and friends. I had to hermit away just to deal with my own symptoms."

Dowe said the drug has been used for many years in the military, including in Afghanistan. He believes some soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder may actually be experiencing symptoms from mefloquine, or a combination of the two.

"PTSD is a diagnosis of convenience in that many of the symptoms of the drug overlap into PTSD-like symptoms ... and general practitioners in Canada are mostly unaware due to the inaction of Health Canada," he explained on NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show.

Health Canada's product information page for mefloquine lists "rare long-lasting and permanent adverse events related to the brain and nervous system (neurological) and mental health (psychiatric)" as a potential safety issue.

However, they add their safety review "found limited evidence supporting that long-lasting and permanent neurological and psychiatric adverse events are caused by the use of mefloquine."

It is still authorized for sale in Canada.

Dowe has founded a group called the International Mefloquine Veterans' Alliance, which wants use of the anti-malarial banned in military forces worldwide.

Last year, the Canadian Armed Forces started decreasing its use of mefloquine, now recommending Malarone or doxycycline in its place.

However it is still given to those who can't take those alternatives, who have taken it in the past and haven't suffered from side effects, and those who request it.

Dowe said that has help reduce the number of soldiers who are being given the drug, but he hopes the lawsuit will bring about additional changes.

"An outright ban, acknowledgement, outreach and compensation," he said.

With files from Meghan Groff




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Dan Ahlstrand

About the Author: Dan Ahlstrand

Dan Ahlstrand is the Managing Editor at News 95.7 and anchors The Morning News on News 95.7 each weekday morning from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
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