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Volume 602: debated on Monday 23 November 2015

5. What steps his Department is taking to monitor the effects of the Lariam form of mefloquine on service personnel who have taken that drug. (902261)

Clinical studies and audits have been undertaken by the Ministry of Defence to assess the effects of Lariam. Those reports and their conclusions are a matter of public record. Lariam is not our first-line treatment and makes up about 1% of our anti-malarial stocks, but for some people, deployed in certain parts of the world, it will be the best drug to protect them from malaria.

It is becoming patently obvious that those who have had Lariam were not assessed fully before using it. Some of my constituents are those who are suffering most. Given the high level of potential suicide among service personnel, increased mental health concerns and stress-related issues, can the Minister confirm that the MOD will do a thorough review of the use of Lariam and that all service personnel will be assessed before Lariam is used again?

Before any drug is prescribed, an individual risk assessment of the patient is undertaken. In addition, as soon as a prescription is entered on to the electronic records system, a warning is flagged to ensure that the prescriber is absolutely sure that the recipient has not had a mental health problem. That policy is audited by defence primary healthcare organisations. If Members have constituents about whom they are concerned, they should encourage them to see their GP or their medical officer.

I very much endorse what the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said and I welcome the Minister’s reply. Having suffered the consequences of Lariam myself, I ask her to look at the alternatives, of which there are several that have far fewer negative side-effects.

I thank my hon. Friend and I can reassure him that Lariam is not our first-line drug. However, in certain parts of the world and given the particular medical history of some individuals, the drug is sometimes currently the only course of action. A new drug is coming on line, and it will be looked at.