Norwegian health experts are concerned the anti-malarial pill Lariam could cause psychosis, reports say.
Whilst the Institute of Public Health still recommends taking the drug, Norwegian military personnel stopped using it in 2010 after soldiers serving in Chad reported sleep problems and anxiety.
“There were psychological effects, repeated nightmares, poor sleep, and such things”, Norwegian troop physician Olaf Scheel told NRK, “and psychological side-effects aren’t good for anyone.”
70 percent of 92 soldiers who used Lariam (generically known as Mefloquine), made by Swiss healthcare company Roche, experienced side effects, including low spirits, and depression.
The US Army dropped Mefloquine, developed by the US Department of Defense’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research as a synthetic analogue of quinine in the 70s, following users complaining of auditory hallucinations and mental breakdowns.
Amongst other side effects are feeling restless, extreme fear, coughs, headaches, dizziness, severe or uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhoea, fever, nausea, and jaundice.
Missionaries and other Norwegian organisations have also discontinued the medicine, with one former soldier on permanent disability benefit, according to the broadcaster.
Watchdog the Norwegian Medicines Agency reports an average of three cases-a-year relating to the possible link between Lariam and psychological problems. One young woman was admitted to hospital with paranoid psychosis. A teenage boy developed paranoia, hallucinations, and suffered from loss of memory.
Meanwhile, amongst increasing parasite resistance to anti-malarial drugs and European Medicines Agency (EMA) granting positive scientific opinion for treating the disease with Pyramax, health specialist Kirsten Myhr is worried about the Institute of Public Health’s continued advice in favour of Lariam despite the risk.
Calling the recommendation for giving healthy people the drug “frightening”, specialist Kristen Myhr says “one must be very confident about not exposing patients to excessive risk when administering preventative medicine.”
The latest World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual World Malaria Report shows there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2010 with approximately 3.3 billion people being at risk of malaria.
Global malaria deaths have declined 25 percent in the last decade, but approximately 665,000 people died from it in 2010. Children under five accounted for 86 percent of the mortality rate.