In today’s post, I will focus on Mefloquine Awareness Canada (MAC) – a group comprised of Canadian Forces veterans, family members, civilians, and scientific and medical experts, who collectively aim to raise national awareness of the harms caused by the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine (also known as Lariam). After almost a year of preparation and research, our group is kicking off the campaign with a Mefloquine Rally scheduled for 19-20 September at Parliament Hill in Ottawa this year.

Let’s look at some of the background first. Canada’s experience with mefloquine dates back to the Canadian Armed Forces 1992 peacekeeping mission in Somali, and a horrific incident, nefariously known as the Somalia Affair. By the mid-1990’s, the devastating effects of mefloquine on Canadian soldiers were already being reported, and they are still being reported today. Yet the drug remains not only available but often prescribed to Canadian travelers, despite less threatening alternatives. The UK, Ireland, and Australia have all denounced mefloquine, leaving Canada as one of the last first-world countries to eradicate this issue.

International expert, Dr. Remington Nevin will be attending this inaugural rally and speaking to the public, and members of the press, about the dangers of the drug on the 20th.  Dr. Nevin is a certified Vermont-based consulting physician.  He’s an expert in the adverse effects of antimalarial drugs, particularly the neurotoxic quinoline derivative mefloquine (previously marketed in the United States as Lariam®). A former U.S. Army Major and Preventive Medicine Officer with extensive travel medicine and policy experience, he focuses his current research on understanding the mechanisms and clinical presentation of antimalarial drug adverse effects and translating the results into recommendations to better inform the rational use of these drugs in domestic and international settings. He is arguably the leading Mefloquine Warrior out there.

More specifically, the rally aims to draw attention to the questionable and possibly illegal use of this drug by the Canadian Forces during the 1992 deployment to Somalia, prior to the drug’s licensing by Health Canada. MAC alleges and will present evidence, that use of this drug drove many soldiers to madness, resulting in the torture and murder of Shidane Arone, ultimately culminating in the disbandment of the entire Canadian Airborne Regiment. Marj Matchee, the wife of convicted soldier Clayton Matchee, will be lending her voice to the rally as an example of how this drug directly affects loved ones. You can hear a bit of her story in the video below.

 

Another Mefloquine Warrior that has been gaining attention for the cause is Dave Bona. Dave has had some tough deployments and suffered first-hand experience with both mefloquine toxicity and PTSD. Ironically these two afflictions have very similar symptoms, but vastly different treatments. The misdiagnosis of mefloquine toxicity as PTSD has led to a variety of issues for veterans and their families, and Dave is fighting to make sure everyone in Canada knows the difference. The image below shows Marj, Dave and myself, at a recent meeting with some MPs to discuss the mefloquine issue further.

FLTR: Marj Matchee, Dave Bona, Bev Skwernuik

 

With inspiration coming from folks like these, and others, I find myself on a personal journey to help further this cause of public awareness and information sharing. It is a passion project and, along with my team, I have put in hundreds of hours. It finally feels like we are making progress. Changing the current and gaining momentum in both media attention and public interest and support. Those able to do so are encouraged to donate. Alternatively, you can follow the progress online and support the cause by interacting with our website and social media channels (links provided below). Our goal, after all, is to spread this message to every corner of our country.

We (MAC) are inviting all members of the media and public to join the rally, where you will hear more personal accounts of the drug’s neurotoxic effects, and how it affects family members and other loved ones that have to live with those living with the symptoms of mefloquine poisoning. There will be an opportunity for those who join the rally to speak out about their own experiences with mefloquine and receive support from the group. 

The group will meet at the gates of Parliament Hill on Tuesday, 19 September. The lead organizers are Marj Matchee and Claude Lalancette, who will be there to greet folks with light refreshments.

 

About Bev Skwernuik

A trained optometrist, I am driven by the urge to increase my knowledge and improve my ability to contribute to the betterment of others. Personally affected by the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, I am touched by the horrific effects it has had on the lives of many others. I am currently dedicating myself to bringing awareness of mefloquine and the dangers of using it to the Canadian public.

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