The UK Defence Select Committee has announced its intent to investigate the use of anti-malarial drug Lariam, also known as Mefloquine, by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Available as 250-mg tablets of mefloquine hydrochloride, Lariam has been associated with psychotic behavioural side effects, including suicidal thoughts, depression and hallucinations in UK military personnel.
Earlier this year, an investigation by the Independent found that nearly 1,000 UK troops had been admitted to mental health clinics or psychiatric hospitals following the use of the once-a-week drug, since 2008.
The MoD, which has continually defended the use of the drug, also admitted that the rate of soldiers seeking mental healthcare after consuming Lariam is 3% higher than the rest of the general military population.
According to MoD figures, approximately 6% of the drug users were admitted for psychiatric treatment.
In a statement, the committee said: "The committee believes that this is a matter which merits further scrutiny.
"Therefore, it intends to take oral evidence on the use of Lariam by the armed forces. Details of witnesses and terms of reference will be announced in due course."
In a letter to Defence Committee chairman Julian Lewis, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that Mefloquine makes up 1.2% of the MoD’s anti-malarial stocks and is being prescribed to soldiers with the accompanying risk-assessment when other drugs would not be effective or suitable for that person.
The drug is being given to troops deployed to Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of South-east Asia and Latin America, reported The Independent.
Developed by the US Army in the 1970s and manufactured by Roche, the anti-malarial pill has been implicated in several military incidents, including the Fort Bragg murder-suicides of 2002.
The US military declared Lariam a ‘drug of last resort’, and the US Special Forces Command banned its administration in troops in 2013.
Image: Lariam is said to have caused psychotic behavioural side effects in UK military personnel. Photo: courtesy of lieutenant colonal John Skliros.