Menendez Calls for DOD, VA Study into Dangerous Health Effects of Anti-Malaria Drug Administered to U.S. Troops

Menendez Calls for DOD, VA Study into Dangerous Health Effects of Anti-Malaria Drug Administered to U.S. Troops

Veterans who have taken Mefloquine have suffered long-term neuropsychiatric symptoms that have severely impacted their quality of life

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is standing up for veterans suffering from the devastating and mentally debilitating side effects of an anti-malaria drug administered to U.S. troops in combat for over four decades.  He called upon the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a registry to study the impacts of Mefloquine in our servicemembers who were administered the drug.

“There have been troubling reports of major side effects associated with the drug, including neuropsychiatric symptoms that can have a severely negative impact on the quality of life for those affected,” the senator stated in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and VA Secretary Bob McDonald.  “Given the widespread use of Mefloquine and the potentially long-lasting symptoms among those administered the drug, it is important for both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a plan to deal with what could become a significant health crisis among the veterans population.” 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strengthened its warnings about the neurological and psychiatric effects of Mefloquine in 2013.  DOD has also significantly reduced the use of the drug following its peak usage in the mid-2000s.

Sen. Menendez suggested the Mefloquine registry be modeled after the existing Agent Orange and Burn Pit registries.

“This will allow the federal government to gather the necessary data to determine the extent of Mefloquine’s possible harmful side effects and to develop a comprehensive plan for treatment,” the Senator wrote.

Full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here

November 9, 2016

The Honorable Ash Carter                                          The Honorable Bob McDonald

Secretary                                                                     Secretary

United States Department of Defense                        United States Department of Veteran Affairs

The Pentagon                                                             810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC  20301                                              Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretaries Carter and McDonald:

I am writing to express my deep concerns about the long-term side effects of the anti-malarial drug Mefloquine on our servicemembers and veterans.

As you know, the U.S. Army developed Mefloquine in the 1970s and it has been administered to U.S. servicemembers for nearly four decades to combat Malaria.  Since the 1980s, there have been troubling reports of major side effects associated with the drug, including neuropsychiatric symptoms that can have a severely negative impact on the quality of life for those affected.   Heightened awareness of these side effects has led the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 to strengthen its warnings about the neurological and psychiatric effects of Mefloquine and the Department of Defense itself has significantly reduced use of the drug since its peak use in the mid-2000s.   Given the widespread use of Mefloquine and the potentially long-lasting symptoms among those administered the drug, it is important for both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a plan to deal with what could become a significant health crisis among the veterans population. 

With this in mind, I respectfully urge both the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to work together towards the establishment of a registry designed to track common symptoms and side effects among those servicemembers and veterans who took Mefloquine.  This will allow the federal government to gather the necessary data to determine the extent of Mefloquine’s possible harmful side effects and to develop a comprehensive plan for treatment.  A Mefloquine registry designed similar to our existing Agent Orange and Burn Pit registries will serve as a critical resources in developing proper treatments for those who are experiencing adverse effects of this drug.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please keep me advised of any action you take on this request.

Sincerely,

ROBERT MENENDEZ

United States Senator