Pharmaceutical companies face class action over side effects of antimalarial drug

The Wasau Pilot and Review carries the story by Jon Parton:

A U.S. military veteran filed a federal class action lawsuit Thursday against the makers of an antimalarial drug distributed to military forces, claiming the drug made tens of thousands of veterans permanently sick.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California by veteran John Nelson, accuses drug makers Roche Laboratories and Genentech of failing to inform the public of severe side effects of mefloquine, carrying the brand name Lariam, a drug given to U.S. service members to help prevent malaria.

The complaint states that the companies were aware of the drug’s effects, “including symptoms of paranoia, hallucinations, and suicidal ideations.”

“By 1994, Defendants knew or should have known that these adverse reactions were permanent and irreversible,” the complaint states. “Since that time, numerous scientific studies have confirmed the causal link between Mefloquine and permanent neuropsychiatric effects.”

The drug, which was originally developed by the U.S. Army and entered the commercial market in 1989, was marketed by Roche. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration required the drug to carry a black box warning due to the severity of its side effects. Roche pulled Lariam from the U.S. market in 2009, but generic versions are still available.

The lawsuit claims the companies concealed the dangers of Lariam and “recklessly sold the drug as a safe and effective first-line treatment for malaria prevention.”

“Defendants had no desire to re-brand Mefloquine as a mere secondary or alternative option for malaria prevention, as that would have extinguished its hold on the market and strong demand for it by the U.S. military,” the complaint states.

Neither attorneys for the plaintiff nor the companies immediately responded to requests for comments made after business hours Thursday.

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