‘Disheartening’: Veterans ‘let down’ by inquiry into anti-malarial drug trials

Veterans are disheartened by a Senate inquiry into anti-malarial drug trials they say have left them with debilitating symptoms for nearly 20 years.

Australian Defence Force personnel took quinoline drugs mefloquine and tafenoquine while deployed to Timor-Leste and Bougainville in Papua New Guinea between 1999 and 2002.

A Senate inquiry this year heard from veterans who have since suffered a range of symptoms including memory loss, vertigo, migraines, vivid nightmares, hearing and vision loss, irritable bowel syndrome, aggression and suicidal thoughts.

Most have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but believe they actually have acquired brain injuries from toxicity and need rehabilitation.

They struggle to access the help they want from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) because it doesn’t match their diagnoses.

The Senate committee accepted their symptoms were genuine in its report tabled this week, but made no findings on the causes of the health issues.

“We’re basically back to square one again,” Colin Brock, who was deployed to Timor-Leste in 2000 and served for 20 years, told The New Daily on Wednesday.

“It’s pretty disheartening.

“The government has looked like they’re doing something but it has actually, I believe, been a whole waste of time.”

An internal inquiry into the mefloquine trial by the ADF Inspector-General in 2016 found it was carried out ethically and in accordance with national guidelines.

The Repatriation Medical Authority found there was insufficient evidence that exposure to the drugs causes acquired brain injury, a finding supported by a September review by the Specialist Medical Review Council.

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