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Ireland settles mefloquine Situation with veteran as Canada prepares to fight Lawsuit

05 Dec 17
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As Canada prepares to fight a lawsuit launched by specialists who say the anti-malarial medication they took on deployment in Somalia caused permanent damage, the Irish government has settled a case with one of its former soldiers that states he, too, is suffering the effects of having consumed mefloquine.

The case brought against the Irish Defence Forces by former army sergeant Anthony Cole finished last week when the Irish government agreed to pay him an undisclosed amount his attorney, Eamon Murray, describes as “substantial.”

Mr. Cole took the anti-malarial medication before and during installation to Chad in 2009. He advised the court that the medication caused nausea, mood swings, depression and migraines.

“The country fought the case robustly, calling my customer a liar and contradicting my customer’s evidence at every possible chance,” Mr. Murray said in a phone interview from his office in Ireland on Monday. “But, in the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case,” he explained, “the nation buckled and settled the case, paid him settlement and paid all his prices.”

In this country, the national government and HoffmanLaRoche, mefloquine’s developer, will be in a courtroom in North Bay, Ont., on Friday to argue that a class-action lawsuit brought by soldiers who participate in the Somalia mission of the early 1990s shouldn’t proceed because an excessive amount of time has passed since the lawsuit was launched in 2001.

The soldiers were forced to take the medication as part of a badly monitored and potentially illegal clinical trial. Ronald Smith, the lead plaintiff in the Canadian case, says the medication left him with a plethora of residual mental-health issues including depression, aggressive behavior, poor concentration, social isolation and suicidal ideas.

Mr. Smith’s lawsuit sat dormant for 17 years as his attorneys debated who would take it to court. It was reactivated as proof around the world started to link mefloquine into the kinds of symptoms experienced by Canadian soldiers in Somalia.

His statement of claim states the military took the soldiers to take the medication, but ignored the principles of this clinical trial, which stated they have to be viewed for adverse reactions and treated for any side effects in a timely fashion, among other things.

This was the crux of the case launched by Mr. Cole in Ireland. Mr. Cole’s suit about the effects of mefloquine and the way it was “administered to him and the way it had been screened and monitored,” Mr. Murray said.

The Irish authorities conceded no accountability but Mr. Murray says future cases must be a lot easier to fight because the testimony is on record. There are approximately 57 other Irish soldiers who’ve also launched suits associated with mefloquine.

Health Canada upgraded the warning labels for the medication in 2016 to highlight that certain side effects may persist for months or years after the medication is stopped, and some can be irreversible in some patients.

The Canadian army conducted a review of the medical literature this year and concluded there isn’t any evidence that the drug causes long-term issues. However, it now says choice drugs are the preferred choices for soldiers who deploy to countries where malaria is a risk.

Remington Nevin, a physician at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, who has studied the drug’s effects for almost a decade, testified on behalf of Mr. Cole and hopes to be called as a witness at the Canadian case, if it goes forward.

“The Canadian government has taken until 2017 to conclude that there were issues with the medication significant enough to justify it being made a drug of last resort,” Dr. Nevin said. “Therefore, if it took the Canadian government until 2017 to recognize this,” he explained, “it isn’t surprising that these issues haven’t made it until today.”

Cathay Wagantall, the Conservative deputy critic for veterans affairs, said she’s disappointed that the government is attempting to block the class-action suit by using the procedural argument that too much time has elapsed.

“This government is apologizing for numerous things and, at precisely the exact same time, won’t apologize for what happened in Somalia or take the measures to reopen the case and examine it honestly,” she explained, “because these veterans understand what they endured and there is evidence out there.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail