” Veterans of the Canadian Airborne Regiment deserve answers to long standing questions regarding Mefloquine. Let’s right this wrong.”
In response to yesterday’s news from Gilles Létourneau, former head of the Somalian inquiry that was abruptly shut down by the Liberal government in 1997, MP Cathay Wagantall, Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Veterans Affairs and a vocal advocate for Veterans seeking change on the military’s use of the drug stated:
“I applaud the Surgeon General of the Canadian Armed Forces, Hugh Mackay’s decision to reassess his agency’s current stance regarding this dangerous malaria drug, Mefloquine. But as stated by Gilles Létourneau yesterday, we cannot forget those who have already taken Mefloquine and suffered its effects. We must continue the work they started back in 1995 and finish it in a timely fashion.
Further, we must set up a national data base of Mefloquine users past and present to determine if they have suffered long term consequences. Also we must dedicate the needed financial resources to ensure that the best treatments and services for Mefloquine toxicity are made available to our service people and that support services are put in place for their families. I am encouraged by the positive and proactive strides I have seen taken by the Veteran Affairs committee to address and provide for our military’s mental health concerns.
Wagantall went on to say that: “Since Canada’s 1990’s Somalia Affair, this drug has continued to plague and mar our noble military history. For 25 years, many of our military men and women, and civilians travelling overseas, suffered in silence the horrors of this drug’s side effects. The side effects reported include: depression, hallucinations, psychotic episodes, and for some even suicide.”
In the United States, right after the Fort Bragg incident, the US Military immediately did an investigation into the relationship of Mefloquine to this horrendous incident. Study results later led to major changes in how that drug was administered in their own military. In 2013, the U.S. continued to implement changes when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) “black boxed” the drug. This is the highest, most stringent warning that can be assigned to a dangerous drug.
On August 31, 2016, the U.K. Telegraph reported that Britain’s Chief of the General Staff, Lord Dannet, after seeing the devastating effects of the drug on his own son, refused to take the drug himself. In the article Lord Dannet goes on to say: “the effects of the drug could be ‘pretty catastrophic’ and he apologized to the troops who had taken it while he was in charge. He further urged the Ministry of Defence to show ‘generosity’ when reaching compensation settlements with hundreds of personnel alleged to have suffered mental health problems after being given the drug during deployments to Malaria hotspots.
A few weeks later, on September 16, 2016, the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs took the lead in this fight by establishing a dedicated Mefloquine support team for their serving and ex-serving military community. Their report goes on to say that the Australian government will establish a formal community consultation; develop more comprehensive online resources that will provide information on anti-malarial medications; establish a dedicated DVA Mefloquine support team to assist with Mefloquine related claims, as well as direct the inter-departmental DVA-defence committee to provide further advice to their government by November 2016.
“Despite the world’s affirmative action regarding future use of this drug, astoundingly our own Department of Defence continued as late as this week, to turn a blind eye. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan stood up in the House of Commons and adamantly defended his department’s continued use of this dangerous drug,” said MP Wagantall.
These soldiers’ efforts today in their longstanding fight against this drug, valiantly continued to serve their brotherhood long after being dishonored by our government. Wagantall went on to say: “The Canadian government and our military need to follow the world lead on this issue now and, when all is said and done, and the expected evidence solidified, right this wrong.
Gail Sparrow, Legislative Assistant
Office of Cathay Wagantall, M.P.
See the News Release: 1-news-release-mefloquine-canadas-shame-en-november-18-2016