Sophie Black writes:

The Australian Defence Force has finally got back to us with an answer to last Thursday’s question – was Private Kovco or any other Australian solderis deployed to Iraq ever prescribed the controversial anti-malaria drug Lariam? An ADF spokesperson issued this statement: “ADF personnel deployed on operations in Baghdad are not prescribed anti-malarial drugs.” The statement contradicts our source, but seems to quash our theory that Kovco’s disturbing premonitory dream and his alleged behaviour could be the side-effects of the anti-malaria drug Lariam.
The ADF told us last week that they couldn’t disclose what would be discussed when the inquiry resumes, but it seems that the subject of what medication Private Kovco was on won’t be coming up in a hurry.

Meanwhile, the class action by troops stationed in East Timor who took the drug and blamed Lariam for side effects including deep depression and suicidal thoughts was dropped in March of this year. Damian Scattini, of Brisbane law firm Quinn and Scattini, told Crikey, “We looked at it and given the legislation that the Commonwealth Government has put in place for servicemen and ex servicemen, we couldn’t see a way that we would be likely to improve upon the paltry amount that they receive in statutory benefits. The risks of litigation were not worth it for the claimants.”

Under the government’s Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, if troops or former troops successfully sue or settle with the government or a third party they automatically give up their future pension and have to pay back any past entitlements.

“We have no doubt that these troops were telling the truth and that they should have been warned of the known risks of this drug,” said Scattini, “but that’s only one element to a claim and the government has set the rules in relation to it being sued. The government’s record of looking after its troops and former troops is well known.”

If anyone has any other feedback or information regarding the military and Lariam, please email us at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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