Were PCVs Used as Test Animals for Meflouine?

A comment on the WSJ Law Blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2015/03/27/former-peace-corps-volunteers-sues-over-malaria-drug/

Commander Bill Manofsky USN(ret) wrote this comment in the Wall Street Journal following the article that appeared about RPCV Sara Thompson (Burkina Faso 2010-12) Sueing The Peace Corps Over Malaria Drug

Mefloquine was invented by the US Army at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) during the Vietnam War. For a history of how poorly this was handled, do a Google search for the full text version of the article “A lesson learnt: the rise and fall of Lariam and Halfan” written by Dr. Ashley Croft, former infectious disease specialist for the British military and their expert on Lariam.
The drug was approved by the FDA as a treatment for malaria in 1976 and as a prophylaxis in 1989. In both situations, the safety trials were skipped.
The 1989 testing was performed by the CDC on healthy Peace Corps volunteers. The US Army was present….yes, that is correct…..the CDC and the US Army were using Peace Corps volunteers as test subjects in a drug trial.

One of the army doctors present later became the head of of WRAIR. He told me that the initial dosage during the drug trail was a 4 day loading dose then taken once every two weeks. He said that when test subjects blood level went below 400 nanograms per milliliter of Lariam, they caught malaria….so they doubled the dose to once per week. He then said that at the conclusion of the trials the loading dose, to his surprise, “simply went away”.  So the loading dose was never FDA approved for prophylactic use. provide protection after the first dose, would offer more rapidly attainable malaria chemoprophylaxis….”

If the Peace Corps and any other agency wants the best for their volunteers, then it is quite negligent to send someone into a malarious area with a drug that can take two months to be effective when, not one, but two safer and immediately effective drugs, Malarone and doxycycline, are available.

Commander Bill Manofsky USN(ret)
National Vice President of Government Relations
Association of the United States Navy
March 30, 2015

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