Town hall held for veterans planning on suing government over anti-malaria drug

   
Published March 24, 2019 5:23 p.m. ET
Updated March 24, 2019 6:49 p.m. ET
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A town hall was held Sunday at the Brookstreet Hotel for veterans who took an anti-malaria drug called mefloquine.

Mefloquine was given to soldiers deployed overseas. Soldiers who’ve taken the potent anti-malarial drug have complained of a wide range of side-effects including depression, night terrors, aggressive behaviour and suicide.

“Unfortunately we were not provided with the true and right consent forms and we were not given accurate information about the true side effects profile that this drug presented,” says 10-year-veteran John Dowe,  

Dowe served with the Canadians Forces from 1990 to 2000 and took mefloquine while deployed in Somalia. Decades later, Dowe said he’s still dealing with side-effects, including anxiety and insomnia.

He says, “Anxiety, insomnia, the vivid dreams, hypervigilance and such. Once I got off the drug and carried on... I never changed.”

He is part of the group of veterans who plan on suing the military for compensation.

Two law firms say will represent military veterans willing to go to court against the government. Lawyer Paul Miller estimates that thousands of Canadian soldiers may be eligible.

Miller says, “The government you are fighting for was going to give you a drug that would affect you for the rest of your life.... you didn’t sign up for that – your families didn’t sign off for that.”

Retired Maj. Christian Glauninger is part of the group suing. He says “Many were diagnosed with PTDS has similar side effects, but it is not PTSD, it’s very different.”

Glauninger says, “Originally when is started to feel that way after Congo, I came home and my wife had cancer so I thought it was all the stuff at home. But I still had the symptoms after.”

In a statement, the government says they have not received notice of the proposed lawsuit, and takes the health of its members very seriously.

The statement says, “In 2017, Health Canada and the Department of National Defence and the CAF announced the release of independent findings from the Health Canada report of Mefloquine and the Surgeon General’s review on the operational use of mefloquine. No evidence was found in the CAF report that would suggest potential long-term adverse effects of mefloquine on human health.‎”

Veteran Philip Brooks wants accountability, “You can’t pull wool over their eyes... we just want to be dealt with honestly.”

The once-a-week drug is still authorized for sale in Canada to prevent malaria.

The lawsuits are expected to be filed in the coming weeks.

With files from CTVNews.ca Staff, CTV Medical Correspondent Avis Favaro and senior producer Elizabeth St. Philip


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