The Times have reported that the Ministry of Defence has quietly paid a “significant sum” to a former artillery gunner who claims his career was destroyed after taking controversial anti-malarial drug Lariam, before being deployed to Kenya in 2012.
Believed to be the first of its kind in Britain, the payment and was made weeks before an expected court case, opening up the possibility of hundreds of claims from former soldiers which could potentially a cost British taxpayers millions of pounds.
Lariam is a medication used to prevent or treat malaria. When used for prevention it is taken once a week and should be begun one or two weeks before potential exposure and continued for four weeks after potential exposure.
Serious side effects include potentially long-term mental health problems such as depression, hallucinations, and anxiety and neurological side effects such as poor balance, seizures, and ringing in the ears. It is therefore not recommended in people with a history of mental health problems or epilepsy.
Developed by the United States Army in the 1970s, it came into use in the mid 1980s and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It was given to 17,368 British military personnel between April 2007 and March 2015 and in 2016, a parliamentary inquiry criticised the MoD over the way it issued the drug.
The former Royal Horse Artillery gunner was given Lariam in 2012 prior to being deployed to Kenya, and it has been claimed he and his fellow military personnel were not given any warnings or advice about the drug.
While in Kenya, the 26-year-old father of one began to suffer from irreguar sleep, personality changes and irritability. Later, he had the first of two seizures in Canada which required him to be evacuated by helicopter. After being deemed unfit for service, he was medically discharged in 2014.
I felt like the world had come to an end. I was devastated. I had lost everything, my home, my job, my friends.
The former soldier’s solicitor, Ahmed Al-Nahhas, is reported as saying the MoD admitted breaching its duty of care but maintained that this had not resulted in any injury or loss to the soldier.