Malaria drug links elite soldier suicides

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Six Special Forces soldiers who committed suicide during the past several years were all taking a controversial anti-malaria drug, UPI reports.

The government already warns the drug, called Lariam, might cause long-term mental problems -- including aggression and suicide.


In a joint investigation with CNN, UPI found no other common factor but the use of the drug. CNN aired a segment on the investigation Tuesday evening.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voiced concern about Lariam and the Special Forces suicides.

"I have long been concerned about the use of Lariam for service members and other U.S. government employees deployed abroad," Feinstein told United Press International. "Now, there is an indication that Lariam may have contributed to the suicides of some of our nation's elite troops." She called on the Pentagon to use alternative drugs.

The Pentagon announced in February it is investigating whether there is a link between the drug and any soldier suicides. But it defends Lariam, known generically as mefloquine, as both highly effective and safe for soldiers to take.

Army medical officials declined requests for an interview, but said in a written statement, "We have no data that indicate that Lariam was a factor in any Army suicides in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)."


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