The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) offers a range of support for current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who took mefloquine (trade name Lariam) and are concerned about possible side effects.
DVA recognises mefloquine as being associated with several health conditions under the Statement of Principles system that applies to treatment and compensation claims.
Defence and DVA encourage general practitioners (GP) to review Defence Joint Health Command’s Clinical Guidelines for providing appropriate care to ADF members concerned about having been prescribed mefloquine. While there is no specific way to diagnose the long-term effects of mefloquine and no specific treatment other than to treat presenting symptoms, these guidelines outline a commonsense approach to the management of individuals who are concerned their current problems may be caused by mefloquine use in the ADF.
Visit the Defence Health web site for more information about malaria, mefloquine and the ADF.
Medicare-rebated health assessment
All former serving personnel can access a comprehensive health assessment from their general practitioner (GP). Ex-service personnel can access this one-off health assessment at any stage after leaving the ADF, as there are no time restrictions.
A key objective of this comprehensive health assessment is to help the GP identify and diagnose the early onset of any physical or mental health conditions. GPs will then be able to treat or refer their patients to other services, as necessary.
A Medicare rebate is available for this assessment.
Mental health treatment
DVA can pay for treatment for certain mental health conditions without the need for the conditions to be accepted as related to service. This is known as non-liability health care. The conditions covered are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and alcohol and substance use disorders. Non-liability health care is available to anyone who has served as a permanent member of the ADF.
The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) also provides free, confidential, nationwide counselling and support for eligible current and former ADF members and their families. VVCS can be contacted 24/7 on 1800 011 046, or learn more via the VVCS web site.
Free online tools
Mental health information and resources for veterans and their families are available through the At Ease website — DVA’s portal to online mental health information.
At Ease provides self-help tools and information to support mental health and wellbeing and is a gateway to websites and mobile apps about stress, PTSD, alcohol management, resilience and suicide awareness and prevention. The apps include High Res, which helps build resilience and manage stress, Operation Life for those managing suicidal thoughts and On Track With The Right Mix, which helps people track and manage their drinking.
At Ease also provides links to a wide range of mental health resources for health professionals and GPs for effective evidence-based treatment of veterans.
Current and former members of the ADF who have a diagnosed health condition that they believe relates to mefloquine can lodge a claim with DVA.
When a claim is accepted, they can access treatment and rehabilitation support.
DVA assesses compensation claims under three pieces of legislation, two of which use Statements of Principles (SoPs). SoPs are legislative instruments that state factors that must exist to establish a connection between a health condition and military service.
An independent statutory authority, the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA), determines the SoPs.
Mefloquine or tafenoquine is currently listed, either by name or in more general terms, as a factor in the SoPs for the following 15 conditions:
- sensorineural hearing loss;
- epileptic seizure;
- peripheral neuropathy;
- bipolar disorder;
- heart block;
- myasthenia gravis;
- trigeminal neuropathy;
- depressive disorder;
- suicide and attempted suicide;
- anxiety disorder;
- acquired cataract; and
The RMA completed its investigation of mefloquine as a cause of panic disorder. It found that panic attacks resulting from medications belong under a diagnosis of ‘medication-induced anxiety disorder’ and are covered by a new factor in the anxiety disorder SoP. As such, there is no new factor relating to mefloquine in the panic disorder SoP.
Claims that do not use the SoPs are determined based on specialist medical opinion.
Following the Government’s election commitments to support veterans concerned about mefloquine, the DVA-Defence Links Steering Committee recommended the establishment of an outreach program in Townsville to provide information to those with concerns. DVA, in collaboration with the Repatriation Medical Authority and VVCS, ran an outreach program in Townsville on 13 to 15 December 2016. The purpose of the program was to provide current and former ADF personnel, their families members, carers and friends, with easy access to information and face-to-face assistance.
For the presentations and handouts from the information sessions please see:
- DVA Presentation (PDF 863 KB) (PPTX 333 KB)
- RMA Presentation (PDF 125 KB) (PPTX 146 KB)
- VVCS Presentation (PDF 1.7 MB) (PPTX 9.2 MB)
- RMA Handout (PDF 605 KB) (RTF 128 KB)
- Non Liability Health Care Handout (PDF 245 KB) (RTF 60 KB)
- Mental Health Resources Handout (PDF 406 KB) (RTF 5.8 MB)
- Operation Life Workshops Handout (PDF 1.6 MB) (RTF 1.2 MB)
- VVCS Brochures
Further information on the outreach program is available on the Frequently asked questions page.
DVA’s Principal Medical Adviser, Dr Ian Gardner, has written to General Practitioners to bring their attention to information that may assist in managing patients who have taken mefloquine.
Ahead of the outreach program, Townsville-based GPs and psychologists were invited to an information session on 29 November 2016. They were provided with information about mefloquine and the outreach program and their assistance was sought in raising awareness of the outreach program in Townsville.
For the presentations given at the information session please see:
- Mefloquine – a DVA presentation for Townsville GPs and others (PDF 418 KB) (PPTX 61 KB)
- Malaria, Mefloquine and the ADF (PDF 1,7 MB)
The following GPs attended the briefing and are able to assist individuals who may present with symptoms or conditions which they attribute to being prescribed mefloquine or tafenoquine while in the ADF. Please note that DVA does not recommend or endorse any individual GPs.