Canadian Firms Plan Mefloquine Legal Action for Veterans

As described in this newspaper article in the Globe and Mail and this story on CTV News, two Canadian firms are planning legal actions on behalf of Canadian soldiers and veterans adversely affected by mefloquine.

North Bay firm Larmer Stickland has announced its intentions to launch a new class action suit on behalf of Somalia-era veterans who were ordered to take mefloquine in 1992, in the early months of the deployment, prior to the drug’s 1993 licensing by Health Canada. Although a similar prior class action suit was recently dismissed due to delay, the firm has announced its intention to relaunch this effort with a new litigant.

Separately, Toronto firm Howie, Sacks & Henry has announced its plans to partner with firm Waddell Phillips for a mass-litigation action for all adversely affected Canadian soldiers and veterans, including individual Somalia-era veterans also covered by the planned class-action suit.

Canadian soldiers and veterans with questions related to these planned actions are encouraged to contact the firms directly.

In recent years, Canadian veterans and their family members have been working tirelessly to raise awareness of their plight. You can watch the powerful stories of those affected by mefloquine poisoning in this story on CTV, and this exposé on APTN. The Quinism Foundation has recently called on Veterans Affairs Canada to screen Canadian veterans for symptomatic mefloquine exposure, and has called on the government of Canada to reopen the Somalia Commission of Inquiry to examine the role of mefloquine in the tragic events of that era.

News of these planned Canadian actions follows the recent announcement of a suit filed by a former U.S. Navy SEAL in California against Roche, the original manufacturer of mefloquine.

Talking to Your Physician About Mefloquine Poisoning

If you believe you have been affected by mefloquine poisoning, there is no substitute for a physician’s diagnosis. There is no single test for the condition, so diagnosis rests on the physician being knowledgeable, screening for exposure, and taking a careful history and considering the lasting effects of mefloquine in their differential diagnosis where appropriate. Unfortunately, most physicians are still unaware of the lasting effects of mefloquine poisoning, and healthcare organizations have been slow to act on the implications of the boxed warnings on the drug label that advise of these lasting effects.

The Quinism Foundation is working to raise awareness within the medical community of the lasting adverse effects of mefloquine, and to encourage formal recognition of the diagnosis of chronic quinoline encephalopathy — the medical condition caused by poisoning of the brain and brainstem by mefloquine and related quinoline drugs.

As we continue our efforts, many veterans and civilian travelers affected by mefloquine poisoning will find success by educating themselves about the condition and talking directly with their physician about their concerns. The following are some talking points that can be used in discussing these concerns with your physicians.

  1. State Your Exposure Concerns. A patient who experiences psychiatric symptoms, such as nightmares or anxiety, or any change in mental state during use of mefloquine is said to have had symptomatic exposure, and may be at risk of chronic quinoline encephalopathy. Stating clearly, “I am worried that I experienced nightmares during my use of mefloquine,” or “I suffered anxiety attacks while I was on mefloquine,” can make the physician aware of this exposure, and the need to take a more detailed history.
  2. Ask Your Physician, “Could These Symptoms Be Due to Mefloquine?” Lasting psychiatric symptoms such as nightmares or anxiety that persist after exposure to mefloquine ends are frequently attributed to other conditions, such as PTSD — even if the symptoms began well prior to the patient experiencing a trauma. In such cases, clearly telling the physician, “My nightmares and anxiety began before my traumatic experience,” and then asking, “Could these lasting symptoms be due to mefloquine?” can help the physician understand your concerns. Some psychiatric diagnoses, including PTSD, require the physician to consider the lasting effects of medications. If, in answering the question, the physician is unaware of these lasting effects, they can be directed to helpful resources, including this textbook chapter.
  3. Seek Specialist Referrals as Appropriate. Lasting psychiatric symptoms from mefloquine poisoning are often accompanied by evidence of neurological problems, including tinnitus, subjective hearing impairment, dizziness, disequilibrium, vertigo, visual disorders, and paresthesias referable to dysfunction in the brainstem. Referral to specialists in audiology, physical therapy, neuro-otology, neuro-optometry, ENT, and neurology may help to identify objective evidence of such dysfunction. Some patients may experience problems with sleep impairment caused by sleep apnea that can be identified by sleep specialists, while others may experience problems swallowing or with the gastrointestinal tract that can be identified by speech pathologists or gastroenterologists. Problems with concentration or memory may be identified through careful testing by neuropsychologists. Problems in these areas may be amenable to therapy, and documenting these problems may prove helpful in supporting a diagnosis of mefloquine poisoning.

In future newsletters, we will discuss each of these topics in greater detail. We also plan to develop and release helpful patient and physician resources on our website. Your donations will help support these and other education efforts. Thank you for your support!

Plan to Attend Our 2019 Annual Meeting

Would you like to learn more about mefloquine poisoning? Make plans to attend our second Annual Educational Meeting, to be held once again at the Hotel Coolidge in beautiful and historic downtown White River Junction, Vermont. Our meeting will be held Monday, April 29, 2019 through Tuesday, April 30, 2019, and will feature a variety of educational sessions, including the annual Sue Rose Memorial Lecture, and various question-and-answer sessions.

This is your best opportunity to learn about quinism from experts in the field and meet with others affected by the condition. A full agenda will be released soon, but in the meantime, you can register now to reserve your space at the meeting, or visit our meeting page to show your support for our meeting directly. Thank you for your support of this effort!

Support Education and Research on Quinism

Do you appreciate the work of the foundation? The Quinism Foundation depends entirely on private donations for its operation. The foundation is proud to be listed as a registered charity in the PayPal Giving Fund, on Amazon Smile, and in the Network for Good’s donor-advised fund. You can read more about the foundation’s charitable activities by reviewing our listing on Guidestar. We thank you for your support!