Though it took over a year for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finally do so, the regulatory agency has issued a stern warning regarding serious neurological and psychiatric side effects associated with mefloquine hydrochloride, a controversial antimalarial drug. This was the medication prescribed, by the Army, for Sergeant Robert Bales. Last year, while on this medication, Bales attacked and murdered 16 Afghan civilians.
Sergeant Bales, a respected soldier and father, was on his fourth deployment in a decade. He is described as an “affable” man but one whose behavior became uncharacteristically belligerent and psychotic--common side effects of mefloquine.
Last month, Bales entered a plea of guilty, saying in his military court hearing that he had no explanation forwhy he committed the act. “I’ve asked that question a million times since then, and there’s not a good reason in the world for why I did the horrible things I did,” he told the military judge. Bales’ attorney has confirmed that he took mefloquine during at least three of his deployments. It was prescribed to treat malaria.
Judicial Watch has investigated this case for more than a year and believes that the US Army has some culpability in the massacre. According to records obtained from the Department of Defense (DOD), the DOD has long been aware of mefloquine’s serious side effects and in 2009 removed it as the drug of choice in the treatment of malaria. Mefloquine is specifically prohibited in the treatment of patients with head injuries, and in particular, traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Bales did incur a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2010, so DOD policy would have prohibited the administration of the drug to Bales.
There have been 87 other deaths associated with the medication. Of these, 39 were suicides and 12 were homicides.
Though the DOD's directive is to limit use of the drug, records obtained by Judicial Watch show that the agency has continued to buy large quantities of mefloquine:
“Since 2010 the Pentagon bought 2,250,925 mefloquine tablets at a cost of $5,487,130, according to the records obtained by JW from the Defense Logistics Agency. Nevertheless, the DOD has refused to confirm or deny if Bales took mefloquine while he served.
Perhaps this week’s FDA warning will carry enough weight to convince the Pentagon to stop giving our soldiers this dangerous pill. 'Neurologic side effects can occur at any time during drug use, and can last for months to years after the drug is stopped or can be permanent,' the FDA warning reads.”
Bales' civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, said that Bales had not wanted to deploy to Afghanistan in the first place. “He was told that he was not going to be redeployed,” Browne explained. “The family was counting on him not being redeployed. I think it would be fair to say he and the family were not happy that he was going back.”
Understandable, considering the highly decorated soldier was on his fourth deployment. And, in addition to the TBI Bales sustained, he also lost part of his foot while serving.
The FDA warning states: “Neurologic side effects can occur at any time during drug use, and can last for months to years after the drug is stopped or can be permanent,” but Judicial Watch reports the DOD has been mum on the issue, refusing to confirm or deny whether or not Bales took mefloquine while he served.