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Drugs, Death and the Manufacture of Doubt

Lariam By Dan Olmsted

I hope regular readers of this site will indulge a fairly extended incursion into a topic that, on the surface, is unrelated to autism but that connects at a deep level with our point and purpose. It concerns what I would call an analogous situation, and analogies sometimes have just as much power as direct argument and evidence.
This piece is triggered by two articles written last week on The Huffington Post by Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher magazine and nine books including “Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq.” Greg is one of the really smart guys orbiting the media universe, and was among the first to raise questions about the weak and wobbly performance of the press in covering the so-called “war on terror.” 
My own experience with Greg comes from something he wrote in March 2004: “My vote for Iraq reporter of the year goes to a low-profile journalist who did not cover the war itself and has never even been to Baghdad. His name is Mark Benjamin, 33, and he serves as investigations editor for United Press International out of Washington, D.C. E&P has documented his work since last autumn, and now the heavy hitters - The New York Times and The Washington Post - are following his lead, taking a long look at the forgotten American victims of the war: the injured, the traumatized, and the suicides.”
At that point, Mark and I were colleagues at UPI -- I was his editor on those stories, although we were first and foremost co-conspirators in trying to bring attention to the woeful way the military was treating its soldiers and veterans. We had already been working together a couple of years at that point, starting in early 2002 with an investigative series on an anti-malaria drug called Lariam. The Army invented it as older malaria pills were losing effectiveness during the Vietnam era, and rushed it onto the market with inadequate testing under a licensing deal with Roche. It didn’t take long for the pharmaceutical version of  “sin in haste, repent at leisure” effect to appear -- by the late 1980s, severe mental problems that included suicide and aggressive behavior were showing up in the military and also in the general traveling population, which was being prescribed Lariam as the new wonder drug.

I wandered into this story in an odd but oddly powerful way -- two friends of mine took trips within a few months of each other, one to India, one to the Amazon, and returned to say that a malaria medication they’d taken had driven them crazy. I mean, really and truly crazy; psychotic; barking mad, as the Brits so vividly put it. I started reading up on this drug and found that the FDA, which approved it, and the CDC, which recommended it, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which invented it, and Roche, which manufactured it, all backed it to the hilt. The malaria surveillance officer at the CDC attributed all the carping to travel stress that the Internet had fanned into some kind of urban myth about a wonderfully safe and effective drug. (All the Peace Corps kids who claimed it drove them crazy -- well, they’re an odd, hypersensitive, idealistic bunch, he claimed.)

We weren’t buying it, and we wrote a long investigative piece for Newsday in 2002 that began:

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- Mounting evidence suggests the anti-malaria drug Lariam -- prescribed to Peace Corps volunteers, travelers and U.S. soldiers -- has triggered mental problems so severe that in a small percentage of users it has led to the ultimate side effect: suicide.

We were right, and we were wrong: Suicide turned out NOT to be the ultimate side effect. The next month, three Special Operations soldiers who returned from Afghanistan to Fort Bragg, N.C., killed their wives and then themselves. This made big headlines -- was the war on terror and its new and stealthy nature driving our best troops over the edge?  We had our own ideas, and we went down to Fort Bragg and talked to enough people to see a pretty clear pattern. These soldiers had messed-up marriages, yes, but they also had zero history of domestic violence, which almost always precedes domestic homicide. I remember standing in the back yard of one of these now-dead couples and talking to a friend of theirs who was cleaning out a shed that held fishing gear the father took on outings with his three sons (now dispersed to relatives in Ohio -- collateral damage that never gets written about). This friend said, yes, the soldier had taken Lariam and lots of it, and yes, he had been very strange since he came back -- “jacked up” was the quote I scribbled on my business card, the first overt sign that something was off kilter in these highly trained and seasoned soldiers. Other Special Ops families were talking openly about seeing similar behavior. They were concluding on their own -- no help from the Internet or prodding from the pesky press required -- that Lariam was behind the cluster of murder-suicides.
We wrote about all that -- and wrote about it, and wrote about it some more, which is what you have to do if you want to break through the Gary-Condit-Craigslist-Killer static in this media day and age. For several weeks we piled up the evidence but our story just lay there, until our far bigger competition, the Associated Press, picked it up as their own (better to be copied than ignored). Suddenly, one morning, it was everywhere. CNN was running crawls about how the drug had been linked to suicide, about internal company documents discussing that fact (we had unearthed them in our original investigation, including a section titled Special Review: Lariam and Suicide, Suicide Attempt and Suicidal Ideation), and about how the Army itself was now going to do an investigation. Wow. Attention would be paid.
But that was the problem, right there: The Army itself was going to do an investigation. The media was satisfied by this “response” and the story faded away; no one seemed to realize that the Army investigating a drug it invented, and rushed onto the market, and ordered its soldiers to take without proper warnings, might not be the most direct route to the truth. And remember, this was the summer of 2002; America had just “won” in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, and now the drums were beating for an invasion of Iraq before the WMD question mark turned into a mushroom cloud over Manhattan. Hoo-AH!
Later that year, the Army Surgeon General’s Office -- the department directly responsible for the use of Lariam -- issued its report. I have to say it was the day I lost what remained of my naivete about government and drug safety and the mainstream media’s ability to connect even two dots with a straight line. The report concluded there was no cluster of Lariam-related murder-suicides at Fort Bragg. They did this by expanding the parameters of the “cluster” they were examining. Besides the three Special Operations murder-suicides, there had been two other murders at Fort Bragg that summer of 2002 -- a cook stabbed his wife and set her trailer on fire in a jealous rage, and a wife got her boyfriend to murder her Army major-husband for the insurance money. The report lumped these in with the three Special Operations murder-suicides -- the ones people were concerned about -- and said, see, only three of these five had taken Lariam, so, voila, no cluster.
This was jaw-droppingly, self-evidently bogus and cynical, but no one outside the world of those who had taken the drug and knew its effects (and a gutsy group called Lariam Action USA) bothered to question it. The Army leaked its report to USA Today, which in the short space it had to “break” the story could only report the facts as offered: “An Army investigation of possible medical and behavioral causes behind a series of domestic killings and suicides at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has ruled out the antimalaria drug Lariam, officials said. Speculation about possible explanations for the killings has run the gamut from the stress of combat to psychotic side effects from Lariam. Three of the four soldiers involved in the killings had recently returned from Afghanistan.”
What a relief -- Army rules out Lariam. On that day I felt a chill of isolation from mainstream journalism that has settled deep into my bones in the intervening years. (And I was an original editor at USA Today, which hurt even more.)
Predictably, more mayhem ensued. By the summer of 2003, we were in Iraq, and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were taking Lariam (even though the CDC didn’t recommend it for Iraq -- there was no malaria risk and other, older, safer drugs worked just as well). And, guess what, there was an immediate spike in the Army suicide rate. Once again, they did a study: “A new Army report reveals that soldiers committed suicides at elevated rates during 2003, with those deployed to Iraq and Kuwait experiencing the greatest increase.”
And once again, the Army acquitted itself. “’We have no data that indicate that Lariam was a factor in any Army suicides in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).’ Instead, the Army said, the deaths were linked to ‘failed personal relationships, financial crises, legal difficulties and mental problems like depression and psychosis’ -- the same factors that trigger suicide in the general public, magnified by ready access to guns.” ABL -- anything but Lariam.
Which brings us back around to Greg Mitchell, who wrote two pieces in the last week about a soldier who killed herself in Iraq in 2003. “With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo (and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.”
This rang a bell. I have long since tossed out boxes full of documentation about Lariam and the military (it was getting hard to get the car into the garage), but I still have the Roche internal safety reports from the 1990s where they catalog the reports of insanity, suicide and violence and pass it off as part of the decline in our social fabric. (Truly, they do! Their “Special Review” on suicides in previously well-adjusted travelers attributes the death to "the progressive break down of traditional values" and family structure, substance abuse and unemployment, not to Lariam use.)
And I still have the folder in which I kept track of those suicides in Iraq. I dug it out last night. The first page lists 21 suicides in 2003. At the top of the page is a note to myself: “Like Fort Bragg -- got caught in the headlights.” By that, I meant that just as the murder-suicide cluster at Fort Bragg threatened to expose the widespread problems the drug was causing soldiers in Afghanistan, the suicide spike the next summer in Iraq showed the same thing was happening all over again. This time, though, it was worse, if one death can ever be said to be worse than another death. This time, the Army had fair warning, the media should have been alert, and soldiers didn’t even need the drug in Iraq whereas there was a technical case for it in Afghanistan. 
In that folder, I listed “OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] Suicides in calendar year 2003” and put a circle next to the name if they were “in L unit” -- a unit that took Lariam. Figuring this out was a tedious process -- I recall spending a good chunk of the summer of 2004 on this one task, because the Army Surgeon General had told Congress (under oath) that Lariam couldn’t possibly be a factor because only four of the suicides occurred in units that were taking it. I counted at least 11 suicides in such units -- enough to fully explain the big increase in the suicide rate. After we wrote about that, the Army had to go back and quietly “amend” the surgeon general’s sworn statement based on “more complete information.” (It was in fact another cluster-fuck, the Army manipulating epidemiology to mask malfeasance. The tactic was also evident in the case of a soldier who was airlifted out of Iraq that summer of 2003 in the midst of a complete psychotic break. He hanged himself at Walter Reed a short while later but was not counted as an Iraq war suicide; he was almost certainly a Lariam psychosis victim.)
Looking at my list now, I see the first suicide occurs on April 13, 2003, about three weeks after the invasion of Iraq. Then they really take off in June, July and August -- just when the weekly load of Lariam toxicity would have peaked (it is fat soluble and settles in your brain and has a half-life -- the amount of time it takes half the drug to leave your body -- from hell). Then there is this entry:
-- Sept. 15, Army Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson, 27, of Flagstaff Ariz. Died in Teafar, Iraq, from a non-combat weapons discharge. Assigned to C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
I have the date circled. It’s impossible to be sure at this point, but I assume that means I had connected Lariam to her unit, through what process I no longer recall. Of course, even if that is correct, it doesn’t mean she actually took Lariam; even if she took it, that doesn’t mean it affected her; even if she took it and it did affect her, that didn’t mean she killed herself solely and proximately due to this drug rather than because of her concern about torture. But on that same list, I also note four other Iraq suicides in 2003 in soldiers who were either stationed at Fort Campbell or were part of the 101st Airborne Division headquartered there. In other words, it was another cluster.
This confusion is just how the Army liked it -- they kept almost no records of who took the drug, let alone which units prescribed it, completely contrary to their own written regulations. They never bothered to find out retrospectively, to say the least,, and they did everything they could to obstruct those who were trying. A classic example: Mark Benjamin and I had put in a request to determine how many veterans of the Somalia conflict -- where Lariam was first used -- had subsequently committed suicide. We put that question to the VA in the form of a Freedom of Information request. I happen to know that a conversation took place inside the VA in which the person in charge of fulfilling that FOI request asked, Do we have that information? He was told, Well, not on one piece of paper, but all we have to do is push a button and the program will spit it out. The response: Well, then, we DON’T have that information. Deny the request.
As I said, I keep seeing stories like Greg Mitchell’s attributing suicides to all kinds of triggers -- and once again, Greg is a superb journalist, mining the facts he has to work with. But those facts, as they’ve been filtered, fudged and filibustered over the past few years, may not comprise all the relevant data.
Another and more bizarre instance is a cluster of suicides among Army recruiters in Texas that recently made news and was the subject of a Congressional hearing in which Army officials declared themselves gobsmacked, absolutely shocked -- shocked. Time magazine wrote a big piece about it April 13, promoted on the cover as “The Tragic Tale of Army Recruiter Suicides.” It goes five full pages, and starts with an anecdote about an Army staff sergeant who was exhausted and demoralized by his job as a recruiter and told a colleague, “’I had such a bad, long week, it was ridiculous.’” He hung himself in his garage. Time called recruiting “perhaps the toughest, if not the most dangerous, job in the Army.”
Oh, for pity’s SAKE! What about this stray fact mentioned in the next paragraph: “Soldiers who have returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan now constitute 73% of recruiters, up from 38% in 2005.” In other words, many if not most recruiters for the United States Army served in areas where the Army made them take a drug that can cause severe and long-lasting (let’s call them what they are -- permanent) psychiatric problems, including suicide and aggression, and covered it up not once but twice. To review the official product label one last time:
“Mefloquine [the generic name] may cause psychiatric symptoms in a number of patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia, and depression to hallucination and psychotic behavior. On occasions, these symptoms have been reported to continue long after mefloquine has been stopped. Rare cases of suicidal ideation and suicide have been reported though no relationship to drug administration has been confirmed.”
Note the bland phrase “a number of patients.” Believe me, if they could establish it was a SMALL number, they would say so. But they have no clue, in large part because they won’t look, and the government and media won’t make them. And maybe a link to suicide hasn’t been “confirmed,” another artful phrase, but trust me, drug manufacturers do not warn of death on official product labels unless they well know it can happen, has happened, and will happen again, and the warning is needed to protect them in any ensuing legal action. 
What has happened here, in summary, is the bad guys won, and they’re still winning. Because of the cover-ups and misdirection committed by Army medical doctors -- a direct violation of their oath to put patients first and do no harm -- we find ourselves discussing how being an Army recruiter is the hardest and most dangerous job in the military, and how it’s perfectly logical to kill yourself after “a bad, long week,” and how failed personal relationships, financial crises, legal difficulties and mental problems like depression and psychosis are picking off our soldiers faster than Iraqi snipers, and how the breakdown of traditional values is causing travelers to kill themselves, and how Alyssa Peterson committed suicide because of Army torture tactics she abhorred. We’re right back where I started, when the head of malaria surveillance at the CDC said those Peace Corps volunteers were, frankly, a little weird.
Well, we’re not quite where we started. I’ve learned a little more about science and its methods since I worked on the Lariam story, and now I know why this whole episode has gone on so long: “Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate.” Allow me to translate this epigram attributed to philosopher and theologian William of Occam centuries ago:

“Entities must not be multiplied unnecessarily.” This is the law of ontological parsimony that -- allow me to translate further -- means, in essence, the simplest explanation for unusual phenomena is the one that should be studied first, and either disproven or embraced, before more complicated theories -- ones that require more facts and theories, more “entities” -- are embraced. In practice, it means that if the Army gave a drug that can cause psychosis, suicide and homicide to tens of thousands of soldiers, and those effects can persist long after they stop taking it, and we observe a pattern of psychosis, suicide and homicide in those soldiers, some of it quite persistent, we need to check that correlation out pretty carefully. 
I said this is a case where the bad guys won, but I should point out the following dispatch from Stars and Stripes last month: “The Army has dropped Lariam — the drug linked to side effects including suicidal tendencies, anxiety, aggression and paranoia — as its preferred protection against malaria because doctors had inadvertently prescribed it to people who should not take it.
“Lariam, the brand name for mefloquine, should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder, which describes many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
“The Army’s new choice for anti-malarial protection is doxycycline, a generic antibiotic.
“’In areas where doxycycline and mefloquine are equally efficacious in preventing malaria, doxycycline is the drug of choice,’ Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker said in a memo dated Feb. 2.”
So no more Lariam and no one accountable -- just the death and destruction it caused our Army and the mayhem it will wreck on our veterans. Maybe Eric Shinseki, who spoke truth to power as Army chief of staff and lost his job over it before the Iraq war, and is now head of the VA, ought to check it out.
After our Lariam investigation and Mark’s stellar work on the mistreatment of Iraq vets, we went our own ways, Mark to Salon, where he continues to do the best work on veterans problems of any reporter in the country (he broke the Walter Reed story, of which The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Gold Medal investigation was derivative -- better to be copied than ignored). I took the drug angle, looking more deeply into whether the same kinds of conflicts, self-dealing and media blindness we saw with Lariam could be playing out on an even bigger and more catastrophic stage -- autism. 

I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.




Thanks Jeannetta.

Jeannette Bishop

News coverage of anti-malaria drugs' effects (not sure the original source or date): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BD4ulWNNIo

Mark Ulinski

I'm hoping this will still get to you Dan, I'm a US Army Somalia Vet that took Mefloquine(Lariam). I am a walkinh poster-child for the adverse side effects of Lariam-my digestive issues as extreme ad daily bloody stools, hand tremors, short-term memory loss, balance issues, in addition to the common, sometimes misdiagnosed as PTSD, like symptoms.I think the facebook page International Veterans Against Mefloquine would be of some interest to you and would love to hear what you have to contribute. I searched your name in the members list and did not find it, so if you are a member and misspelled your name, I apologize. The progress that has been made this year relating to Lariam. There would've been a small group of us addressing the FDA on October 27th was it not for hurricane "Sandy". Your knowledge would be of GREAT value in addition to what we already have. Thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.


This is an old blog and few will respond.
It is not right that you should have been caught up in such a situation.

We all are trying to form a Carnary Party because only as a political form can we get situations as yours noticed, addressed and stopped.


oh, I just do not know what to say or even know if this comment will get a response as there have been no recent ones. I recently went to a trip abroad and took mefloquine for malaria prophylaxis, my son 4, did too. We were told to start 2 weeks before and continue till 4 weeks after we returned. No other instructions, but i should have been more careful, i got pregnant even before we left for our trip, but only suspected it while we were away. When we came back i met with obgyn who said it was okay but I am still very scared. The instructions as i know them to be now are to aviod pregnancy during and up to 3 months after use of the drug.I am very very scared for the saftey of this pregnancy. Even if there are no chromosomal or detectable defects, i fear autism/autistic spectrum, or pdd. Any advice would be appreciated.

Benedetta Stilwell

WOW! I watched a TV program just like this. I am not sure was it Law and Order? Did anyone else see it? I thought it was totally made up and was a veiled attempt to describe problems with the anthrax vaccine in the Gulf War, did not know it really was telling a true story!

Mary E. Hershberger

Hi Dan Olmsted!

Thank you for this piece, for introducing the Lariam world and the Autism universe to one another, and for your ongoing commitment to these stories. We love you!

Mary E. Hershberger
Lariam '94

Suzanne Marmion

Thanks, Dan. I'm a journalist who took Lariam in 2004, and although I had never been in any war-zones, the drug induced in me panic attacks, "flashbacks" to scenes of terrible violence I had never witnessed, sleeplessness, depression, agression toward others and two powerful and sudden urges to kill myself. It sounds like a clear case of PTSD, but was all, in fact, the effect of Lariam toxicity. Imagine how many soldiers are being misdiagnosed, and still being poisoned by this awful drug.
Incidentally, I was actutely ill and unable to work for two years, and was diagnosed with Lariam-induced vestibular disorder, i.e. permanent brain damage.
Suzanne Marmion Lariam '04


Great article and to read the stories of the victims of lariam... they are parallel to our own. Yes, this piece is very fitting here at AOA.

Everything is someone else's problem, until it happens to them. I'm no exception, I believed my Dr. and our gov't and their good intentions as I held all three of my children down for their shots. What a fool I was, I trusted my government to tell me what's best for my family?! Sadly for us and our "cause", most people get away with it and everything is fine. They go on believing that the powers that be actually do have their best interest at heart. So when we tell our stories we are just a bunch of conspiracy theorists, and with that label, we're written off by them.

Believe that everything is on the up and up, no injustice will ever touch you and yours, believe it because you want to and it's easy.

Note to Dan, a couple of weeks ago David Simon, former journalist with the Baltimore Sun and creator of The Wire on HBO, was on Bill Moyers talking about Journalism, Government, etc. and it was compelling. It's long but worth it. Here's the link if you're interested.


Harry H.

Dan, sometimes it's disheartening to see nothing much has changed. Forty years ago I landed in Vietnam where I spent some time checking out defoliated parts of the jungle. Of course it took years for the government and the chemical giants to acknowledge that they killed more than just the jungle when they dropped agent orange. Your story reads like Deja Vu all over again.

Of course being on the front lines of the autism war is just more of the same old stuff.

Keep it up.


Angela Warner


I am so glad to hear that your committment to the autism and Lariam issues has been reinvigorated. You are and will continue to be a journalist with true integrity, and we all know there are far too few left in this world.

As a military spouse, it never ceases to amaze and shock me the level to which our military members have been used as guinea pigs for big pharma. In my eyes these types of things are crimes against the very people who have volunteered to protect and fight for our country, laying down their very life if necessary. But they didn't sign up to do it for big pharma, and it just proves the point oft made that government does not run this country, pharma does.

The parallel is there. Why would we expect any different? Pharma has left a long trail of parallel's over the years, yet people refuse to see or listen.

As far as the topic on recruiting goes... I have to agree with you. While it is a stressful job, so is any other in the military. I will say that I could understand that the hours might bring stress to the family, as they can be long and somewhat un-predictable versus a deployment where you know your spouse is gone... That said with re-cruiting, your spouse is safe versus being in a war zone. That said, it appears that the military places more value on recruiters who receive $150 or so more a month in special pays than those in a war zone. Should they be compensated for the flexibility required of the job? Yes. But not more than a member who is a war zone and might take a bullet or worse, for our country.

One last thought... so much has been written about on military issues on AoA to this point, I'd love to see ya'all have a military category :)

Thanks Dan, for continuing to bring the truth to light and sharing with us.

dan olmsted

hi all -- the comments left here have really reinvigorated my commitment to both the lariam and autism stories ... for those of you from the autism universe, can you believe some of the suffering that did happen, is happening and will continue to happen, vouched for by very credible eyewitnesses while those with the power to do something, do nothing!? even i am stunned to see how it rolls on and on. only a totally corrupt government-military-pharmaceutical enterprise could spawn this ongoing nightmare. and for those of you from the lariam world, let me assure you the same nightmare continues to unfold, with the same denials and manufacture of doubt, among children getting the unsafe and toxic and unnecessary vaccine load imposed on them by the selfsame CDC, FDA and drug companies. It's hard to absorb, which is why analogies that confirm the same pattern are so important -- so we don't all think we are losing our minds (to pick an unfortunate metaphor given the effects of Lariam and vaccine excesses, but you know what I mean). that's why the tendrils of these stories run so deep and far and wide -- as mark blaxill points out today, into the entire repugnant enterprise we're just now understanding. so hang in there fellow travelers and let's see this thing through -- there really is no moral choice, and it beats sitting there being abused. welcome to the mutually supportive Rebel Alliance. -- dan (PS to Gatagorra -- CNN was actually good on this issue; it was the print media that really failed to do its job. When I see that Gannett stock, which was $70 a share when I left in 1999, and is now three bucks or something, part of me thinks, well, if you had done a better job and made yourself more necessary to good governance, I'd feel sorrier for you. ditto the new york times which has hocked itself to a mexican tycoon. pity, that. time for new and better journalistic enterprises to rise on their ruins. those are the ones that will find an audience.)


I'm not sure what all the news was in 2002. I was prescribed Larium several times in the 1990s. The first time I was told very specifically that Larium caused serious psychological effects in some people, and that I should report any psychological changes immediately to my doctor, and that I should stop taking it if I had any "especially vivid dreams". I don't remember the exact words, but the doctors I was dealing with definitely implied that this was a riskier medicine than the others I was being given, and to be careful of mental side effects.



Excellent piece, Dan. Seeing the military link agendas to the pharmaceutical industry goes so far beyond what Eisenhower warned regarding the "military industrial complex". It really brings the threat into a new, weird age entirely.

About CNN poaching the Lariam story from UPI, the whole thing makes me think of Susan Boyle for a few, seemingly off-subject reasons. I noticed the number of opinion pieces on Susan Boyle which appeared after she became a Youtube sensation. Vaguely recognizable Broadway and showbiz professionals of all stripes were coming out of the woodwork to attack Boyle on whatever grounds-- lack of professionalism, for being a flash in the pan, not such a great singer after all, nyah nyah, etc. They secretly seemed outraged that she hadn't paid her "dues" but the truth is, performers of Boyle's ability who've gained status are just impossible to attack and Susan Boyle is a good whipping boy.

But I have to say after seeing hundreds of shows and concerts in New York and having to go home and shower off the stinking fakery of some paragon of the stage or other, you can't buy what Susan Boyle has. She appealed on a level that defies words but I guess could be best described as simplicity and truth. The argument isn't really about professionalism since I know at least one veteran Broadway performer who managed to sustain that "pure thing" and whose talent, not coincidentally, is inseparable from serious personal integrity-- unheard of in the profession.

So here's my analogy: the truth plays in a certain key and only those who manage to keep their souls can sing in it. It has the potential to move people in a way that nothing merely sensational ever will.

In journalism, it's obviously a matter of power and clashing ideology that explains why some who originally break an idea are cut out of the loop and why it's done with such open contempt in some instances (and why credit is easily is given in others): the people being stolen from are usually those designated as ideological outsiders for some key reason. In the case that the story breakers were going deeper into a subject than the poachers intended or brought in issues that were inconvenient to the poachers, the thread to the original story needs to be wiped out and, if this demoralizes those who bled for a concept, story or idea (the only way that a hard-to-tell truth ever gets told) all the better. Gets rid of the threat of comparison, hides the source, etc.

This made me realize that those who bleed for an idea or a truth are probably, in many ways, easier to demoralize because they're mostly being kept warm by their passion in the first place-- not exactly their profits, fauning fans or broad base of appeal.

So thanks, Dan, for surviving it and not being an ironic cautionary tale against sticking one's neck out and sticking to one's guns. When a "good one" survives, the irony lands on the other side-- boil it down and the other side can't sing. It's one of the reasons that the concerns of the movement aren't being silenced. May we never lose that edge.


Very informative Dan. And yet, no longer surprising given my own continued experience with Lariam toxicity and no one's willingness to accept blame.
So many people have told me, 'It could be worse'. Being hospitalized 18 times to date since my return in 2001 - with recurrence of the hallucinations, psychosis, paranoia, depression, suicidal tendencies.... - and then undergoing rounds of electroshock therapy in a last ditch effort to quench the crippling depression and suicidal tendencies - I'm trying to see how 'it could be worse'.
Losing your mind and never knowing when you'll lose it next is something I struggle to move past every day. I graduated from a prestigious university back before I went and now I am living on long-term disability making ends meet at $1,056 a month as I am no longer capable of working without experiencing a relapse.
Am I bitter? Yes. Do I wish I was informed of the gamut of side effects rather than just being told 'you may have weird dreams the night you take it?' Hell yes.
This is negligence to the nth degree and Roche, the Army, the FDA, the CDC - all involved - should own up to knowingly covering up or downplaying statistics and side effects.
It won't make my psychiatric problems go away nor get my fully functioning life back, but at least it will prevent others and their families from undergoing the same hell on earth.
Here's to hoping pharma companies will grow an honest backbone.

Shaun McCanna

While researching and filming the documentary Drugs and Death at Bagram, we uncovered a document that directly links an Army suicide to Lariam, and suggests the Army was in fact tracking Lariam suicides in 2004. The document is a Mental Health Evaluation written after Army SPC John Torres committed suicide at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in July of 2004. We received the Evaluation as part of a FOIA request and it states in part:

"…His [John’s] somatic-anxiety symptoms were not sufficiently severe, based on objective findings, to precipitate such an extreme response [of suicide]. His psychological stressors were likewise mild, especially in contrast to the very promising future that would have begun in earnest in just two months...With relatively minimal psychosocial factors present, a biological basis may be the primary precipitant. If toxicology reveals the presence of mefloquine, SPC Torres' case should be viewed in light of other suicides suspected to be associated with the drug."

You can learn more about John’s case at:

Sue Rose, Co-Director, Lariam Action USA

Thanks, Dan, for your continued interest in the problems of Lariam (mefloquine) toxicity. Just thought I'd pass along a comment from an active duty Army doctor, presently serving in Africa. "I was just sitting in the smoking area the other day and had a Soldier volunteer his experiences with mefloquine. Not a reassuring story, to say the least... I hear at least one doozie a week over here." He goes on to point out that just because the policy changed doesn't mean the soldiers in the field are no longer being prescribed Lariam. That will only happen when Lariam is completely removed from the military's pharmacy.


I forwarded this comment to one of my brothers, who served in the Peace Corps in Namibia. He emailed me as follows:

"Thanks, very interesting. I have been following this stuff on Mefloquin for a long time because we all took it in Namibia, and it did make people crazy. I had incredibly intense nightmares and some nighttime hallucinations (what are called hypnagogic hallucinations) when I was on it. After a while my body adjusted and the symptoms went away, but we were all scared of the stuff. Many people went off it altogether and took the chance at malaria.

"One volunteer lost all her hair and had a serious depressive episode, with psychotic features. When asked if she'd been taking her meds as directed she said 'Yep, every day.' To which our nurse said 'Once a week, hun. Once a week.'"


I am a physician, and saw a dramatic case of Lariam toxicity a few months ago in a well-educated US traveler. I'm also an autism parent, and thanks to you and others, am educated about our government's parallel role in the autism epidemic and coverup. I can't help but notice the "blame the doctors" strategy used by the army (doctors prescribed Lariam to those "who should not take it.") There is no way to predict who will develop psychosis with Lariam- those who should not take it is probably everyone. Until strict measures are taken to keep commercial interests (Big Pharma) out of medical education, schools, hospitals, the military, and government, these disasters will only repeat themselves. Thanks for your valuable service to the country, Dan- I respect more than ever the critical importance of your profession.


I was prescribed Lariam for a year-long trip to India several years ago and was, frankly, decimated by its effects (psychosis, suicidal ideation, depression, insomnia). I still struggle with many of these issues today and have to thank you and Lariam Action for all that you do.
Your piece was remarkable. And I assure you that I still retain "traditional family values." Were they joking? Does this pass for scientific inquiry?

Jim Prietsch

Dan: Superlative reporting! As one whose life has been permanently altered by Lariam, I applaud your efforts to alert the public to the evils associated with this poison. Irrespective of the fact that Lariam kills the malaria virus, it should NEVER be given as a prophylaxis to anyone. Jim Prietsch, Lariam-2000.

Paul Nelson


Thank you so much for this article. I received a link from the Yahoo! Lariam group. It is vindicating for me to know that someone, besides the masses that have been poisoned, cares about the Lariam problem. I took Lariam in 2005 while doing missionary work in Africa. Something inside me broke and I've never been completely the same. It didn't make me aggressive or suicidal, but I can see how the terrifying panic attacks and constant foreboding that I experienced might be enough to drive someone else there.

From the second I returned to America, it was an uphill battle. Absolutely no one cares about this issue except for those that have been permanently traumatized. People told me "get over it." I submitted a medical complain to the FDA: what a joke right? The hospital that prescribed Lariam to me (University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics) were sorry about my "side effects" and would consider updating their drug information. In other words, keep prescribing the drug and try to do a better a job of covering their behinds.

The government, while promoting "freedom" abroad, has suppressed the truth about Lariam and avoided blame at all costs (including human life apparently). What is a human life worth to the government anyway? Apparently not much when you can just "recruit another" or if corporations like Roche make life comfortable for you in exchange for a view favors on that congressional subcommittee...

Thank you for pointing out how vain and imprudent the mainstream media has become. At times, they have been as much of a party to this as the government. You give me some hope that there are some that will stand against the tide.

dan olmsted

Hi Liz, thanks for commenting. I appreciate the hard work you are doing on behalf of our country. You say "But to suggest that the military citing recruiting and other factors in the suicides is ridiculous is not OK." I respectfully disagree with you -- the military IS being ridiculous when it cites recruiting duty and endless other factors as a cause of suicide -- in fact, it's being worse than ridiculous, it's being dishonest and derelict. That's because they have chosen to avoid looking at a much simpler and more plausible factor, or at least co-factor -- giving soldiers a drug that we know causes suicide and does so "long after" people stop taking it. And they have a proven record of covering it up. Until they behave ethically and in the best interests of our soldiers and veterans by facing the truth, I really don't want to hear about the hard lot of recruiters and its presumed relationship to suicide clusters (or about travel stress, or weird Peace Corps types, or financial problems, or failed personal relationships, or the unique demands of the war on terror, or concern about torture -- NONE of these are explanatory of high rates of suicide). Lots of people have hard jobs and personal problems, inside and outside of the military. Most people don't hang themselves in their garage because they have a bad week on a hard job, and when a number of such suicides occur at once, it's not OK to just double down on that idea and say, well, recruiting must be a really, really hard job. This is especially so when the army has covered up the fact that it gave tens and tens of thousands of soldiers a drug that does in fact cause suicide and long-term psychiatric symptoms that could induce suicide at any given future point, and many of those soldiers are now Army recruiters, in increasing numbers. Before I'm willing to entertain the idea that suicide is a logical response to the demands of being an Army recruiter, I'd like the Army to do its job: to produce records -- and if the records don't exist, do the hard work -- of determining which of those recruiters ever was given this drug. THEN perhaps we can talk about how tough recruiting is. This is what happens when people cover up the truth, they fool us into looking for much more exotic and less plausible explanations. to be technical about it, we can already say that people who took a drug that can cause suicide long after a patient stops taking it are overrepresented among Army recruiters, and so is suicide. a suggestion -- why not ask your recruiter colleagues in an informal sample how many of them EVER took lariam, and let us know the results. -- dan

Jake Crosby

One more thing - My father went to Thailand a decade ago for a business trip, so the doctor prescribed him an anti-Malaria drug. We don't know if it was Larium or not, but the doctor told him that he should take one pill a day. My mother, curious, checked the bottle and found my father should actually take one a week! The doctor was wrong. Luckily, she thought to check the bottle first rather than taking the doctor's flawed orders at face value.

Liz Tashma

As a military family with over 8 years on active duty who returned from recruiting duty about one year ago, I can state without hesitation that recruiting duty is absolutely the hardest duty we have ever faced. It was certainly harder than a recent deployment to Iraq (third in the war on terror) - one week after our second son was born and two months after our first son was diagnosed with Autism.

I am not suggesting that the link between suicide and Larium does not exist - I have no idea. But to suggest that the military citing recruiting and other factors in the suicides is ridiculous is not OK.



You said:

"So no more Lariam and no one accountable -- just the death and destruction it caused our Army and the mayhem it will wreek on our veterans."

But, you also said:

“The Army has dropped Lariam — the drug linked to side effects including suicidal tendencies, anxiety, aggression and paranoia — as its preferred protection against malaria because doctors had inadvertently prescribed it to people who should not take it."

It sure sounds to me like the "doctors that had 'inadvertently' prescribed it to people who should not take it." could certainly be held accountable. Maybe then they might start singing a song about the Army's role in this atrocity.

Thanks for this story.


Our MD is a rare gem, by adhering to the belief that "Drugs are all poisons with some desirable side effects." If only the world could adopt this attitude.


Thanks, Dan, for the analogy. The Roche internal safety report on suicides sounds like fiction cribbed from Focus on the Family.

I saw that Salon.com has amassed a lengthy list of investigative reports by Mark Benjamin.

My brother was an Army recruiter in the 1970s. He sat in an office for hours. The most danger he faced there was probably the cumulative effect of donuts.

So -- what do we know about the side effects of doxycycline?

Jake Crosby

So this is the anti-Malaria drug you were telling me about. Truly disturbing, though hardly surprising based on everything else I know now.

Anne Dachel

Thank you Dan. Here's yet another example of a government sponsored medical disaster. Here again, an agency
is given oversight over itself in denying any harmful side effects from a pharmaceutical product.

It's clear that the level of corruption and cover up involving Lariam is on a scale similar to what we've seen for years in the vaccine-autism controversy. Official denials and phony studies have long been used to debunk a link between vaccines and the explosion in autism. The media jumps on them as if they're the final proof, but the debate only gets worse. The failure of the media to report all the facts guarantees that more of these scandals will occur. In the end, there will be no trust left in government officials, the medical community, or the press.

The neurological damage done to a generation of children continues despite more and more parents, doctors, and scientists sounding an alarm. As a result, it's easy to believe the Lariam story. We all want to trust our government, the medical community, and the press. No one wants to believe that self-protection and financial conflicts could take precedence over the truth. The claims swirling around both Lariam and vaccines chip away at the faith we all have in those in charge. The establishment appears to be increasingly less motivated by the public good. And when the trust is gone, all that's left is fear.

Anne Dachel

Joe Shlabotnik

The law of ontological parsimony that you reference is more commonly called "Occam's Razor" and is often paraphrased as:

Given two theories, all other things being equal, the simpler theory is preferred.

And you hit the nail on the head again Dan. This law definitely should be applied to both the soldiers' suicides as well as to the origins of autism. But, then again, any objective scientist already knows this.


I had a journalism professor in the late 80's who took great pride in her field and referred to journalists and news reporters as having great responsibility as the 4th Branch of the US Government.

She died several years ago, but if she were alive today, I bet she'd be teaching students all about you and Mark Benjamin and how it is still possible to find good journalists today who really are serving the US as a 4th govt branch adding a visable layer of checks and balances to an often corrupt and deceptive system.

Thank you for all you do!

Speculation galore

From Sue -

"It seems possible to me that it is the combination of larium with thimerosal laden vaccines that could be leading to these mental troubles."

Or it might be the combination of the malaria sitting in the DNA (from being bit) coupled with immune stimulation from the vaccines that got them. Kind of like the Somalis in Minnesota. That would explain it wouldn't it? The Larium would be the icing on the cake, so to speak.


Does the "flo" in Mefloquine mean this is a fluorine containing compound (kind of like SSRIs)?

Kathy Blanco

Larium is a drug well known in the lyme comunity, they use it to treat a malarlia like pathogen called Babesia. Most kids with autism and seizues, have Babesia. Not kidding. Test it yourself (www.igenex.com ) and get back to me. In the ast coast, the version is Babesia Microti, and on the West, it is Babesia WA-1 or Ca-1 depending on your state of origin or visits.

I was offered this for my son, but after being wise to pharma secrets, I looked it up too. And found it had very severe side effects, no thanks. I would rather go with untried and untrue, than to guesswork, like I did with vaccines. So we do a lot of herbals, but we also did Mepron and Zithromax, and esentially we killed the succor. Now on wot Herpex viruses in the brain, and that one is a tough succor. Valtrex/Famvir, etc. Then another pathogen right? Probably...and some are yet to be discovered as a cause or initiator of autism. The point being, we have a world now that is being experimented on. Most of these babesia pathogens are bioweaponized.


Very interesting, and many parallels for sure. Amazing how the product's own label gets ignored. It's good that the army no longer prescribes this as much -- but unfortunate that there is no admission of causation. I know they want to CYA, but there must be lots of travelers out there who have no idea why they experienced a psychotic breakdown because they did not happen to read articles such as Dan's. And maybe exploration of this causation could also help to bring about treatment. (Not to mention that pharma profits should help pay for treatment, wages lost, etc.)

Indeed there are lots of parallels with vaccines and autism.


It would be interesting to know whether or not the alkyloids in larium can form compounds with mercury. It seems possible to me that it is the combination of larium with thimerosal laden vaccines that could be leading to these mental troubles. Soldiers and many travelers would have multiple pre-departure vaccines as well as the larium in common.
Apparently the alkyloid in larium easily crosses the blood-brain barrier--could it also bond with and carry mercury into the brain? Maybe Andy Cutler could say whether this is chemically possible/likely or not. I only know that some alkyloids do bond with mercury. Just speculating.
Thanks for your investigations.


Thanks Dan, great piece....extrememly disturbing, but informative:(


Now I'm wondering about this, that happened to Canadian Forces just a few days ago...


"KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- A female military intelligence specialist who was found dead in her Forces' accommodation room at Kandahar Air Field left "no goodbyes or signs," a Canadian padre said at a ramp ceremony held for Major Michelle Mendes late last night.

"Her tragic death has left many of us stunned. She left us with no goodbyes or signs," Padre Martine Bélanger said in an address before pallbearers lifted the fallen soldier's flag-draped casket. "For many of us, our minds and hearts are full of questions as to why," the padre said."

Another 180 degrees

“The Army has dropped Lariam — the drug linked to side effects including suicidal tendencies, anxiety, aggression and paranoia — as its preferred protection against malaria because doctors had inadvertently prescribed it to people who should not take it."

Did any of you notice the about face the CDC did on the flu shot recommendations this winter? From - all kids and old people should get it TO only the healthy should get it because they have healthy immune systems and they are the ones who spread disease when they get the flu! I was stunned. How does a public health agency do a 180 on something as fundamental as immune system function. By the way, not a peep out of anyone in mainstream media with even 1/8th of a brain.

Ladies and gentlemen, Big Pharma has cluster-fucked (love that term, we should use it more often) us, and continues to cluster-fuck us on a daily basis. Run for your lives I say!!

Teresa Conrick


This was so well done! It reads like fiction, like a great scary and mysterious novel so to hear it truly happened and its effect is still lingering, is crazy.

Thank God the army has stopped using it (your reporting with Mark B. surely is part of that) but what about others--like innocent travelers such as lisa's sister? (how horrible!)

I feel so bad for these families and some type of justice needs to happen--it is an unfinished story which then brings us to autism. Yes...the "analogous situation" is definitely with us and so glad you are with us, too.

Fate is certainly making sure you are a busy guy as you connect the dots...or is it serendipity?


Excellent work Dan. Of course we expect no less from you.

Robin Nemeth

Excellent story Dan.

If all of the different groups of people who’ve been seriously harmed by the vaccine industry could ever manage to organize into one group to try and take on and hold accountable the people who’ve wreaked so much havoc in so many lives, they might stand a chance.

Lord knows there’re enough of them.

(I heard someone on TV a few weeks ago talking about how the causes of alzheimers are a mystery, or probably genetic in origin. (Someone with a large alzheimers support group.) Yep. Mm hmmm. Sure.)



Thanks for continuing to research and fight to protect innocent people - children and adults alike.

lisa s.

Great article, Dan (as usual). My sister went to Africa in the '90s. She was prescribed Lariam. While she was in Africa, she began hallucinating. After she returned home, she became paralyzed by depression and anxiety. She had to move in with a friend. She was unable to work. She figured out through her own research what had happened to her -- that it was this drug that caused it. She is okay now, or at least she seems to be. It robbed her of many years of her life.

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