GPs have been told they can refer ex-soldiers to military mental health services if the veteran took the anti-malarial mefloquine (brand name Lariam) while in service.
Mefloquine has been used as an anti-malarial for military personnel operating or training in sub-Saharan Africa for 20 years but recently there has been more discussion of its side-effects, particularly its neuropsychiatric effects.
GPs are advised that military personnel in Iraq or Afghanistan were probably not given mefloquine, as malaria is not endemic there for much of the year or an alternative anti-malarial was used.
In light of the concerns the drug affects mental health, Ministry of Defence has launched a central resource for advice and support to military personnel who have taken mefloquine prescribed by the MOD, while encouraging veterans or reservists who ‘have concerns’ about their ‘experience of mefloquine’ to contact their NHS GP for advice.
A letter to GPs said: ‘If your records confirm that your patient took mefloquine while in the military (or you have reason to believe this is the case) and they have mental health issues that you would wish to refer for further assessment or treatment, the Veterans and Reservists Mental Health Programme can provide an assessment and, if appropriate, enable further follow-up and treatment through local NHS resources.’
It added that GPs may also ‘choose to support the veteran locally’.