Congress weighs Lariam in Bragg deaths

By MARK BENJAMIN and DAN OLMSTED  |  Sept. 30, 2002 at 8:13 PM
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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Members of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday they would take a careful look at whether a controversial anti-malaria drug might have played a role in a string of killings and suicides near Fort Bragg last summer.

Several members of the committee traveled to Fayetteville and Fort Bragg Monday for a day of meetings with civilian and military personnel to discuss preventing domestic violence.

Subcommittee Chairman John McHugh, R-N.Y., said the panel would look at whether the drug, called Lariam, might have played a role in the killings near Fort Bragg.

"Particularly with the contraindications that are listed on this particular manufacturer's label, it is something we want to discuss," McHugh told United Press International.

Lariam's label warns of rare reports of suicides, along with aggression, paranoia and psychosis. At least three of the soldiers involved in the deaths near Fort Bragg took Lariam this year. Two committed suicide after allegedly killing their wives. A third is in prison after allegedly strangling his wife, and friends said he has had delusions and paranoia but is improving.

"Obviously, it is a connector" among some of the killings, said McHugh. "I think we owe it to ourselves to at least take a look at it."

Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., said the committee would look into Lariam. "We do not want to discount it," Hayes said.

Reps. Jeff Miller R-Fla., and Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., also attended the meetings.

The Pentagon sent an epidemiological team to Fort Bragg to look into factors that could have contributed to the violence, including Lariam. McHugh said that team's report might be complete as early as this week.

Just one month before the killings began last summer, McHugh wrote Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld last May to ask for a review of the military's use of Lariam. McHugh's staff is reviewing the Pentagon's 22-page response dated Sept. 13.

The Army, which invented Lariam and says it has been used safely by hundreds of thousands of troops, has said it sees no evidence that Lariam caused any of the deaths near Fort Bragg.

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