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Published On: Fri, Sep 27th, 2013

DOD policy on malaria drug, mefloquine, consistant with FDA

Back on July 29, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated it’s warning about the antimalarial drug, mefloquine, concerning the serious side effects encountered from some using the drug– the neurologic and psychiatric side effects, some of which were permanent.

This included a boxed warning, which is used only for the most severe side effects.

Malaria image/CDC

Malaria image/CDC

The FDA describes the side effects as follows: The neurologic side effects can include dizziness, loss of balance, or ringing in the ears. The psychiatric side effects can include feeling anxious, mistrustful, depressed, or having hallucinations

The Department of Defense (DOD) said in a news release Thursday that mefloquine was designated as the antimalarial drug of last resort in April, according to a DOD policy letter issued that month by Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

“According to the April 15, 2013, Health Affairs guidance, mefloquine should be the last drug that’s used. There are other drugs we use first, which would be chloroquine, doxycycline or Malarone, and we save mefloquine for last,” Air Force Col. (Dr.) Scott Stanek, a preventive medicine physician in the Office of Force Health Protection and Readiness, told American Forces Press Service.

“But we send our service members to areas where there is malaria,” he said. “It’s a serious disease that kills many people around the world, so that’s one of the reasons we go through these steps to make sure our service members are protected, and part of the protection package is to use antimalarial medications.”

Stanek said that when service members find out they are deploying to an area, they come to the clinic to find out if there is malaria in that location, its type and sensitivity to medications, or whether any resistance to certain antimalarial medications may be present in that location as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Center for Medical Intelligence.

Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jose Rodriguez-Vazquez, a family practice and aerospace physician and director of medical readiness in the Office of Force Health Protection and Readiness, said no antimalarial drug is 100 percent protective. Every drug should be used along with personal protective measures such as insect repellent, long sleeves, long pants, sleeping in a mosquito-free setting or using an insecticide-treated bed net, he said.

Stanek added that protection is a multipronged approach.

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects mosquitoes, which then bite humans. It is a major cause of death worldwide but is less common in the United States. The disease is a problem primarily in developing countries with warm climates. Persons who travel to these countries may be at risk of malaria infection and should take drugs to prevent or reduce that risk. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. Drugs must be taken to treat the disease if you have been infected, but may, themselves, have side effects.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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