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Underreported: Mefloquine use at Guantanamo

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Detainees held by the United States government at the Guantanamo Bay prison have been administered very high doses of the drug Mefloquine, according to a new report from Seton Hall Law School. While the drug is a powerful anti-malarial, it also has a number of adverse side effects, which include hallucinations, paranoia and depression. On today’s Underreported segment Mark Denbeaux, one of the reports authors and director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy & Research, discusses why administration of the drug to detainees (at five times the regular dosage) is controversial.

Guests:

Mark Denbeaux

Comments [15]

Steve S.

I know someone who committed suicide after taking Lariam/Melfoquine while on duty in Africa for a large international development organization. They had him take it as a prophylactic but they did not notify him of the very severe side effects that have been reported by many users.

I'd recommend watching the documentary "Taken as Directed" about Lariam/Mefloquine. A preview can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuwFczpIDZ8

I'd advise anyone considering taking this drug to do some serious research before doing so. My understanding is that there are much safer drugs available that are just as effective in preventing and treating malaria.

Jan. 10 2011 05:14 AM
Sean from NJ

@Michael - The 1250 mg dosage was approved for symptomatic patients for treatment of malaria. Not prophylactic use. The CDC does not recommend presumptive treatment with mefloquine, and every specialist Seton Hall talked to said they would never prescribe 1250 mg without a positive test for malaria. If there is a credible tropical disease / malaria doctor who disagrees with that, Seton Hall would love to hear from them.

Full disclosure- I am a co-author of the report.

Jan. 07 2011 12:53 AM
Bleuz00m from Philadelphia,PA

Thank you, Leonard, for sharing this. Your team should also post links to Truthout's earlier reports about this mis-use of Mefloquine on Guantanamo detainees. Here are two of the links:
12/10/10 http://www.truth-out.org/controversial-drug-given-all-guantanamo-detainees-amounted-pharmacologic-waterboarding6558 and 12/20/10:
http://www.truth-out.org/ex-guantanamo-official-was-told-not-discuss-policy-surrounding-antimalarial-drug66107

Jan. 06 2011 03:13 PM
cofabco from jersey city

Michael,
The 1250 mg dose is for treatment of confirmed cases of malaria. The 250 mg dose is preventative. Unless every detainee brought to Guantanamo tested positive for malaria, the higher dose would be unwarranted.

Jan. 06 2011 01:53 PM
Phil from Park Slope

The one time high dosage is for treatment after infection, right? I think the prophylactic prescription is the low dosage. My experience is that only Americans and Germans get Larium as it is considered too dangerous by every other western country.

Jan. 06 2011 01:50 PM
Annonomous from Brooklyn, NY

Hello Micheal,

As I've known it Mefloquine (brand name Larium) is taken 1 time per week at 250mg. Where did you get the 1250mg number?

Jan. 06 2011 01:45 PM
Michael from East Village

I'm an internist in NYC. Just looked up some info on mefloquine. First, it's an FDA approved medication. Second, the standard dose for treatment is 1250 mg by mouth one time. That is the dose that the prisoners were given.

I can't comment on the appropriateness and ethics of treating all the prisoners, but I have to question the credibility of the guest. There is nothing outrageous about the use of mefloquine or the dose that was given..

Jan. 06 2011 01:39 PM
Matt Renner from NYC

Hey Leonard, thanks for covering this. Truthout.org broke this story - there's a follow-up here:
http://www.truth-out.org/ex-guantanamo-official-was-told-not-discuss-policy-surrounding-antimalarial-drug66107

Jan. 06 2011 01:38 PM
Annonomous from Brooklyn, NY

No, Muslims can take anti-malarial drugs.

Jan. 06 2011 01:36 PM
Phil from Park Slope

I've seen travelers have complete paranoid mental breakdowns from Lariam--same drug--at normal prescription doses. I've know people, including myself, who have decided to discontinue their use because the risk of Malaria starts to look better than the side effects of the drug. It is no joke!

Jan. 06 2011 01:35 PM
Annonomous from Brooklyn, NY

I'm a malaria researcher and for a variety of reasons I can say that the effects of mefloquine is similar to LSD. Indeed, I know someone who has used mefloquine because of its similarity to LSD (although he was entering a malarious area). Mefloquine is contra-indicated for anyone with mental health issues like depression. This LSD-like effect is well known among malaria docs and researchers.

Jan. 06 2011 01:34 PM
Dan from nyc

Are there any religious conflicts with administering these drugs to muslims?

Jan. 06 2011 01:31 PM
john from office

His goals became evident when he refered to the cells as cages.

Jan. 06 2011 01:29 PM
john from office

What a non story. Anything to make the US look bad.

Jan. 06 2011 01:25 PM
Artie A from Hastings, NY

Shared this on Facebook. Thank you.

Jan. 06 2011 01:24 PM

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