An acceptable risk? The use of Lariam for military personnel Contents


1.The risks associated with Lariam—an anti-malarial drug used by the MoD—have been the subject of concern and controversy for more than a decade. Since the 1990s, Members of Parliament have regularly highlighted these risks by means of Early Day Motions, written questions and debates. In response to recent media coverage, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence on 8 September 2015, requesting an update on MoD policy for using Lariam as an anti-malarial for the Armed Forces.1 He replied on 21 September 2015,2 but we were not convinced by that response and decided to conduct an inquiry into its use for service personnel.

2.Our inquiry concentrated on the prescription of Lariam and the guidelines issued by Roche; the recorded side-effects of Lariam and a comparison with the side-effects of other anti-malarial drugs; the individual risk assessments required before Lariam is prescribed; research into the problems associated with Lariam; and the use of Lariam by other nations’ militaries.3

3.We took oral evidence from Roche, the manufacturer of Lariam; Dr Remington Nevin and Dr Ashley Croft, two medical experts; and Trixie Foster and Colonel (Rtd) Andrew Marriott, campaigners against the military’s use of Lariam. We concluded our oral evidence with Mark Lancaster TD MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans; Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker OBE, Surgeon General; Brigadier Timothy Hodgetts CBE, Medical Director, Defence Medical Services; and Surgeon Captain John Sharpley, Defence Consultant in Psychiatry. We thank our witnesses for their contributions and also those who took the time to write to the Committee setting out their personal experience of Lariam use.

4.In his opening statement, the Minister acknowledged that “anecdotal evidence” submitted to our inquiry “suggests that a limited number of Service personnel believe that their individual risk assessments did not take place”. He apologised to “any former or current Service personnel affected”, should that have been the case.4

5.We welcome the Minister’s apology to former and current Service personnel who believed that they were prescribed Lariam without the necessary individual risk assessments. This is a timely acknowledgement of the concerns raised about the use of Lariam. We look to the Minister to build on his opening statement by engaging positively with the recommendations we make in this Report. The prescription of a drug known to have ‘neuropsychiatric side effects and vestibular disorders’ without face-to-face interviews shows a lamentable weakness in the MoD’s Duty of Care towards service personnel.

3 The Terms of Reference for the inquiry can be found here.

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

19 May 2016