The Deputy is aware that there are three anti-malarial drugs, namely Lariam (Mefloquine), Malarone and Doxycycline which continue to be used by the Defence Forces. All of these anti-malaria drugs have contraindications and side effects. I have indicated on many occasions that the use of anti-malaria drugs is a medical matter that should be decided by qualified medical professionals. In the Defence Forces these are decisions for highly qualified Medical Officers, having regard to the specific circumstances of the mission and the individual member of the Defence Forces. Significant precautions are taken by the Defence Forces Medical Officers in assessing the medical suitability of members of the Defence Forces to take any of the anti-malarial medications.
The matter raised relates to current litigation against the Minister. There are a number of claims made by current and former members of the Defence Forces who allege personal injury as a consequence of their consumption of Lariam. The State Claims Agency has advised that 164 claims have been made in this regard to date, and the next case is listed for hearing on 20 November, 2018. Given that there is litigation pending it would be inappropriate for me to comment further. However, I wish to assure the Deputy that the health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a key priority for me and the Defence Forces.