In 1990, Lariam (mefloquine) became the drug of choice for malaria prevention. It was endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and prescribed for travelers, government workers, and the U.S. military who were going to regions where malaria was present. It was even given to airline crews who flew to malaria regions.
Mefloquine has been responsible for psychotic breakdowns, suicides and a host of other side effects. Many people taking it stopped on their own because they were able to realize it was the drug that was causing the problems.
Here is a vignette of my experience with the drug after it was first released in 1990.
I was in charge of the health unit for a film being made in northern Thailand. I was aware that there was chloroquine resistant malaria in that region. I contacted the CDC and talked to the head of the Malaria Prevention Department. He told me that the drug of choice was Lariam. I was unable to obtain it in the USA but was able to get a supply in Europe.
I wrote a letter to the crew instructing them to take the drug while in Thailand. I think now it was fortunate that many stopped taking the drug because they recognized it was causing “ weird” feelings. I myself took the drug and noticed no effects from it. However about 3 weeks into the “shoot” a camera-crane operator went suddenly berserk. It took 5 people to hold him down and get him to the hospital, where eventually enough valium calmed him down. He was however still paranoid and irrational, and had to be evacuated back to England.
I had, at the time, no idea what the cause was for his breakdown. It wasn’t until two years later when reports started appearing about the drug’s side effects that I realized what the cause was. I shuddered to think about some of the airline pilots and U.S. military who were being given the drug.
I would be interested to hear if anyone has had personal experiences, or friends who have experienced side-effects from the drug.