Alberta soldiers gather to mull lawsuit over forced anti-malaria drug

Canada Canadian flag shoulder patches on army armed forces uniforms. Hundreds of Alberta veterans attended a town hall meeting in Edmonton this weekend to discuss an impending lawsuit for soldiers who say they have been permanently affected by an anti-malarial drug commonly given to Canadian troops in the 1990s.

Mefloquine is a drug that was first given to soldiers going to Somalia in 1992 as part of a clinical trial.

Paul Miller, a partner with Howie, Sacks & Henry (HSH), spoke at the town hall meeting at the Kingsway Legion, 14339 50 St., on Saturday. HSH claims the federal government was negligent in informing soldiers of the drug’s side-effects.

“They gave these drugs to the serviceman, they did not tell them about the side-effects and one of the things the manufacturer warned was if anyone suffered from these side-effects they need to discontinue the drug immediately,” Miller said in an interview Sunday.

Miller said most people affected by the drug suffer from mefloquine toxicity, also known as quinism, which affects the brain in ways similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Side-effects can range from nausea, diarrhea, and muscle weakness to vivid dreams, vertigo and visual disturbance. In 2016, Health Canada updated label warnings on mefloquine to include psychotic behaviour, suicidal thoughts, paranoia and anxiety.

Jessica Lamirande, Canadian Forces spokeswoman, said the military’s general surgeon conducted a report two years ago that said mefloquine should not be the first anti-malarial option.

“However, it remains the preferred option for some individuals,” said Lamirande. “We will continue to allow members to make this evidence-based choice.” ‘There is no cure right now’

John Dowe, a plaintiff in HSH’s lawsuit, served in Somalia and took mefloquine as part of the clinical trial in 1992.

Dowe said he had acute symptoms of quinism, including hyper-vigilance, insomnia, aggressiveness and detachment during his time in Somalia. He said he still feels those symptoms today.

“Today I’m left with a sizeable minority of veterans with chronic ongoing symptoms that are permanent,” said Dowe, who was among the estimated 200 people who attended the Edmonton town hall. “There is no cure right now.” Trending in Canada

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