28. Mefloquine Dispatches: 3573 – Lambie, Senator Jacqui, 23rd April 2021

I was quite unwell when this came out and completely missed it. That said the questions are good but they don’t go far enough. They focus on the initial East Timor deployments (where mefloquine was used but Tafenoquine was the preferred option). Also, no mention of previous deployments where mefloquine was used for deployments from Rwanda to PNG. Certainly no mention of the 100-odd men who received mefloquine as part of the Sandline Affair deployment as the anti-malarial was not detailed on our medical records.

Via the Parlwork website. 3573 – Lambie, Senator Jacqui to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Her questions:

SENATOR LAMBIE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 23 April 2021:

1. How many Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who were prescribed mefloquine during Timor-Leste deployments were later deployed to do war service in the Middle East?

2. How many ADF personnel who were prescribed mefloquine during Timor-Leste deployments went on to serve in the Middle East:

in the Special Air Service;

as commandos; and

in Royal Australian Regiments.

3. What work has been done, and is being done, to track the effects of the mefloquine trials on soldiers’ response to trauma, is data on this being monitored.

4. How many soldiers who were prescribed mefloquine during deployment to Timor-Leste were later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

5. How many soldiers who were prescribed mefloquine during deployment to Timor-Leste later attempted suicide or committed suicide.

In response dated the 21st May 2021 via the Parlwork website. As above. The response:

1. The number of ADF personnel previously reported as using mefloquine was determined based on trial nominal roles and pharmacy dispensing records. Determining those personnel who were prescribed mefloquine during Timor-Leste deployments, and who subsequently deployed to the Middle East, would require an intensive process of matching health datasets with data in personnel service record systems, including physical records going back a number of decades. Significant resources and time would be required to consolidate and interpret this data. Defence health resources are fully engaged supporting the Defence response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are unable to be reallocated to producing the requested data.

2. The answer provided to Question 1 also applies to this question.

3. No work has been undertaken, or is being undertaken, to track the effects of the mefloquine trials on ADF personnel response to trauma. The Senate Inquiry in 2018 into ADF use of mefloquine and tafenoquine, recommended against such activities.

4. As at 1 May 2021, Defence is aware of 99 ADF members who were prescribed mefloquine in Timor-Leste, being later diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst those prescribed mefloquine is similar to those who did not take mefloquine.

5. Of the ADF members who were prescribed mefloquine during their deployment to Timor-Leste, Defence is aware of seven members who have died by suicide.