Lariam is the trade name for the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, manufactured by Hoffman-LaRoche (approved by the FDA for use in the USA 2 May 1989). Mefloquine is also marketed under the trade name Mephaquine manufactured by Mepha.
For almost twenty years, there has been increasing documentation, from medical case reports and anecdotally, that both the frequency and the seriousness of debilitating side-effects of this drug are under-estimated. Perhaps most troublesome, is that serious adverse events can persist for years after the end of dosing (see the medical research references listed on the lariam bibliography page).
Medical and scientific reports were documenting dangers associated with Lariam as early as 1987. For instance, a study published in the British Medical Journal (31 August 1996, 313:13) found that "About 0.7% (1 in 140) travellers taking mefloquine can expect to have a neuropsychiatric adverse event unpleasant enough to temporarily prevent them from carrying out their day to day activities, compared with 0.009% (1 in 1100) taking chloroquine and proguanil. [emphasis mine]" Overbosch and colleagues (2001) reported adverse events attributed to mefloquine in 42% of 486 people studied. Neuropsychiatric adverse events were found in 29% of the subjects, with 19% being considered "moderate or severe".
Many people have reported serious side-effects (e.g. panic attacks, "epileptic type" convulsions, headaches, visual and auditory hallucinations, etc.) that persist months after last dose, and are so debilitating that they can no longer continue their work or normal social interactions (see the many medical case reports and media references). "Lariam Action" support groups have been formed in the U.K., the U.S.A., New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, and Switzerland. As of March 2001, lariam-related lawsuits have been filed in Ireland, Canada, Denmark, and the United States. (In 1996, class action lawsuit against the manufacturer was filed in the U.K. representing several hundred clients, but was withdrawn in 1999.) Legal action against Lariam's manufacturer has been filed in the U.S. by several firms. For additional information about mefloquine, please read through the reference page. For information regarding legal action pending in the U.S., contact Susan Rose, Attorney at Law (contacts).
Please note: I am not a medical doctor. Information on this page should not be taken as medical advice. Rather, it should be considered information that your medical doctor may not be aware of (physicians in the U.S. are rarely experts in tropical medicine). Malaria can be a life-threatening affliction, and one should exercise every precaution to avoid mosquito bites in malarial areas.
In order to make the best decision regarding what anti-malarial to take, patient and doctor should take into consideration (1) the type of malaria most prevalent in your target area, (2) the level of resistance to the various anti-malarial medications in this area, (3) your current health status, lifestyle, and concurrent medications being taken, and then (4) weigh the risks associated with the various anti-malairal medications to your particular situation. No medication guarantees that you will not contract malaria. And no medication is free of side-effects in all consumers.
Before choosing mefloquine, look at the medical research and media reports documenting the serious problems associated with this drug, and give this web site address to your physician, so that together you can make an informed choice.
Medical Research Bibliography
Lariam Product Information(PDF from the manufacturer, Roche)"Occasionally, more severe neuropsychiatric disorders have been reported such as: sensory and motor neuropathies (including paresthesia, tremor and ataxia), convulsions, agitation or restlessness, anxiety, depression, mood changes, panic attacks, forgetfulness, confusion, hallucination, aggression, psychotic or paranoid reactions and encephalopathy. Rare cases of suicidal ideation and suicide have been reported though no relationship to drug administration has been confirmed."
I suffered severe and debilitating side-effects after taking Lariam in 1992 in Uganda. After returning stateside, I posted an e-mail regarding Lariam to a primatological newsgroup in 1995; these comments were subsequently archived and popped up when individuals did Internet searches on "Lariam", so I inadvertently became an international clearing house for people suffering long-term side-effects seeking information. I post this page as a starting point for research.
-- M.K. Holder, Ph.D.