During the Vietnam war a defoliant call Agent Orange was sprayed all over the country via the US AirForce. Below them were US troops along with thousands of other soldiers from South Vietnam and other allies who had joined the fight. The effects of this chemical will continue to be felt for generations. In the end the Veterans were able to force their governments into providing compensation. But only after multiple lawsuits and hundreds of thousands in legal fees.
Fast Forward to the 1990’s, the UN begins to send troops into areas of Africa and South Asia that are prone to Malaria, Yellow Fever and a host of other diseases. Knowing that illness is what accounts for the majority of military casualties, soldiers are vaccinated. Yet there is no vaccine for Malaria. So what is to be done?
Created in the 1970’s by the US Military at Walter Reed Medical, Mefloquine has been around the block. It has supposedly been tested and put through the ringer. So what happened?
Early 1990’s, Canada
First there was the Somalia incident, which cost the Canadian Military her Airborne Regiment. Well disciplined troops suddenly acted out, killing a local. Much was hidden about what had happened. Following that, there was a rise of PTSD within the ranks. Regular, well disciplined troops were suddenly acting out, anger outbursts at home and the work place. Domestic violence rates rose. Cries that something was systemically wrong were ignored. Otherwise healthy soldiers at the prime of their lives, were suddenly struck down with debilitating neurological illnesses.
The cause, according to the Canadian Military? A rise in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What was occurring was psychological in nature not medical. The rug had been lifted and the sweeping had begun. For the next 29 years soldiers would be rotated out of Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East. With few exceptions all would be prescribed and ordered to take Mefloquine. All would be assured that what they were taking was perfectly fine. All would be assured that the dreams were simply a side effect. Anyone who complained or got into trouble was quickly diagnosed with PTSD and discharged. Their lives in shambles, hundreds would take their own lives.
What is the truth though? Are the rates higher then previous conflicts? Are they higher then the non-military average? Let us take a look. Using the power of Google I was able to come up with, what appear to be, reliable statistics. Although they come from the very Governments that are trying to skirt responsibility for knowingly poisoning their troops and in some case are derived from self response surveys. I would suggest that the numbers are on the low side.
The United States of America
According to various reports from the US Government and Mainstream Media the rates of PTSD among troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq can be as low as 11% to as high as 20%. No reason is given for this rather large range. In comparison, the rate during the First Gulf War (1991) was 12%, for Vietnam it was as high as 30%. The numbers from World War 2 show a rate of about 15% with similar numbers for World War 1.
So either the rates have dropped or they have increased. It is not clear which one it is. Although according to various Veteran Support Agencies such as Military Minds, the rate is on the higher side. With an average of 22 Veterans a day committing suicide in the US alone.
The Canadian numbers seem to be in line with US numbers. With 14% of Regular Force members receiving benefits for PTSD from Veterans Affairs Canada. When we zoom in and look at only those who deployed to Afghanistan we come up with 16.5%, among those who did not deploy to Afghanistan we see the rate being slightly lower at 14%. These are numbers based on 2012 self surveys and data collection. In comparison the rate for the general population in 2017 is only at 7%. More recent numbers for the Military and Veteran Affairs are not readily available.
According to a study released in 2013 that compared Mental Health numbers from 2002 and 2012, the rates have remained largely unchanged. However, this study also includes numbers from the Military’s Mental Health Survey which was a voluntary survey.
An interesting discrepancy appears when we take a look at the Mental Health stats within the UK’s Armed Forces and Veterans. The numbers appear to be in line with the rest of the allies during World War 1 and 2. However, when we switch to the last 20 years or so we see a huge difference.
While the rates for the US and Canada are closer to the 20% mark, the UK rates are listed as being under 10% for Mental Health. With the overall rate for Mental Health disorders being 6% in 2016, up from 4% in 2014. In comparison the rate for the general population was 4% in 2004 and 2006.
Even when we zero in and look at Afghanistan and Iraq, the rates remain half of what it is for the US and Canada. With the Ministry of Defense reporting a rate of 9.4% for those who served in Afghanistan compared to just 5% for those who did not. Which is only slightly higher than the general population.
What could the reason be for such a huge discrepancy between allies? Are British Troops better trained? Are the British people more able to withstand experiencing trauma? Unlikely, since the rates were the same during both World Wars which consisted of more combat and were more brutal then the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most likely culprit is a lack of reporting by active personnel for fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods. There is just too much of a discrepancy between militaries that use similar tactics and equipment and who fought alongside one another.
Since it is a logical conclusion to draw that active duty soldiers are under reporting their Mental Health issues and that governments are hiding how bad the situation is, it is easy to see how the rates for the last 20 years are more in line with the rates from Vietnam. But why? What has changed? Are we weaker then our grand and great-grandfathers? No there must be a more logical reason.
During the 1970’s a decade long study searching for an effective anti-malarial concluded at the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research. The result was a 4-quinolinemethanol anti-malarial drug #142,490 out of 300,000 compounds. To bring it to market, it was given, without charge to F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd (Roche).
During the pre-licensing trials it was given to male prisoners, military personnel and was tested on subjects in the third world. However, these studies were not conducted using sensitive and unbiased methods. The only side effects recorded were nausea and vertigo. The drug was declared safe for use and was licensed by the FDA IN 1989.
As the drug gained popularity and market share, additional side effects become evident. Reports out of Europe citing complaints of amnesia, confusion and psychosis events were downplayed and blamed on the effects of travel and not the medication.
Finally in 2001 a proper and scientific blind study was conducted solely on the US Civilian population. After 15 years of use it was finally recorded that Neuropsychiatric symptoms were 100x what was initially reported for the drug.
The Middle Eastern Wars (aka Global War on Terrorism)
Following the tragic attack on the United States of America on September 11th 2001, the US along with it’s NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks. Afghanistan is a hotbed for malaria.
NATO’s solution? Issue Lariam (Mefloquine) to their troops as prophylaxis treatment. This decision was made even though there was evidence of Neuropsychiatric side effects that could (and did) disable troops. Even if we put aside the humanity factor of what happened to these troops. The cost that was incurred in compensating these troops for their injuries and in training their replacements is astronomical. The extended cost on society is equally as high, in overall legal and medical costs.
Why did they choose this drug then? Was Mefloquine the only option, as we were led to believe? Absolutely not. In 2000 Malarone was approved by the FDA as an effective prophylaxis for the same type of Malaria that Mefloquine treated. As far back as 1970 it was known that Tetracycline Antibiotics were effective as well. Doxycyline was approved as an antibiotic in 1967 and was licensed to be used as an anti-malarial in 1994.
So there was no reason to use Mefloquine, especially in light of the Neuropsychiatric effects of the drug. The only reasons I can think of are either incompetence or money. Or perhaps a combination of the two.
So what is the end result of this tragedy? We have Governments in the UK, US, Canada and Australia that are trying their hardest to ignore the problems. We have thousands of soldiers who are suffering with very debilitating and permanent neurological and neuropsychiatric disibilites. Hundreds have taken their own lives every year. We have domestic and workplace violence rates that are way above the national averages and from members of society that should be well disciplined.
In the US multiple class action lawsuits have been launched, in Canada a Mass Tort is now underway, calls are being made for similar actions in the UK and Australia. In the Commonwealth calls are being made for Royal Inquiries. Military Members, Veterans and their families all want answers as to why they and their loved ones were deliberately and without valid reason poisoned.
In Canada, the Ministry of National Defense and Health Canada have both released reports stating that Mefloquine is safe for use and that there is no evidence of neuropsychiatric side effects. This goes against what has been reported to the FDA in the United States and within Europe. In Australia the matter is just blatantly being ignored.