By Jon Parton | Courthouse news
(CN) – A U.S. Army veteran on Thursday filed a federal class action lawsuit against the makers of an antimalarial drug distributed to military forces, claiming the drug has made tens of thousands of veterans permanently ill.
the trial, filed in the Northern District of California by veteran John Nelson, accuses drugmakers Roche Laboratories and Genentech of failing to inform the public of the serious side effects of mefloquine, under the brand name Lariam, a drug given to US military to help prevent malaria.
The complaint says the companies were aware of the drug’s effects, “including symptoms of paranoia, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.”
“In 1994, the defendants knew or should have known that these side effects were permanent and irreversible,” says the complaint. “Since then, numerous scientific studies have confirmed the causal link between mefloquine and the permanent neuropsychiatric effects. “
The drug, which was originally developed by the US military 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 because of the severity of its side effects. Roche pulled Lariam from the US market in 2009, but generic versions are still available.
The lawsuit claims the companies hid the dangers of Lariam and “recklessly sold the drug as a safe and effective first-line treatment for the prevention of malaria.”
“The defendants had no desire to rename mefloquine as a simple secondary or alternative option for the prevention of malaria, as that would have extinguished its hold on the market and the strong demand of the US military,” the complaint states.
Neither the plaintiff’s lawyers nor the companies immediately responded to requests for comment made after hours Thursday.