58. Mefloquine Dispatches: Paul ‘Dusty’ Miller, 16th April 2023
by Shane Granger
Background: As soon as I caught this story via ABC I made the comment. “I bet you he was an East Timor veteran”. Via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Tributes flow for SA father and veteran Paul Miller who died during Kokoda Track walk.
Name: Paul ‘Dusty’ Miller (rank: Unknown, Australian Army)
Deceased: 16th April 2023 (aged: 48). Kokoda Track, PNG.
NOK: Amanda (Wife). Sarah, Sabrina, Hayley, Aaron and Amy (who passed aged 12).
Exposure to Anti-Quinolines: Highly probable that he received either Tafenoquine or Mefloquine as part of the controversial drug trials during his deployment to East Timor (INTERFET) in 1999-2000. Possible exposure to Mefloquine during his 1990s service (i.e. the Tully Jungle Warfare Centre utilised ‘what ever was on the shelf’). Also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Discharged 2014.
Conditions witnessed/documented that relate to Quinism: Heart Attack. Retired due to mental health-related issues.
Confounding Factors: Age. Heart issues are currenly not covered due to Tafenoquine exposure. Also, the Kokoda track is an extremely hard 96km trek through rugged jungle and mountains.
Cause of Death: Suspected Heart Attack.
OPINION: When I first walked into an emergency room in early 2019 stating I had been exposed to Mefloquine in 1997, the Doctor, who was a Combat Veteran who deployed to East Timor in 2006 didn’t immediately ask me about my mental health. He first checked my heart which I thought was strange at the time. Turns out a lot of us die from heart issues.
According to first reports Paul suffered a heart attack while walking the Kokoda Track. I only had two Sergeants who were exposed to either Mefloquine or Tafenoquine (or a combination of the two drugs). Both died either of heart attacks or heart related issues in their 40’s. Heart block is a recognised condition from exposure to Mefloquine. The ADF does not recognise heart issues due to Tafenoquine exposure but no longitudinal studies have been completed since the trials finalised in the early 2000s. The ADF has spent an enormous amount of energy trying to convince everyone Tafenoquine is safer than Mefloquine without conducting proper studies into the long-term effects.
It should be noted that one of the key study technicians of Mefloquine (WR 142 490) was Nathan Leopold who suffered two heart attacks during the Stateville prison experiments and died of heart failure in 1971.
The ABC reported that ‘Mr Miller retired due to mental health-related issues’. Quinism is commonly misdiagnosed as PTSD or Depression. Evidence given at the 2018 at the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into anti-quinoline use raises concerns about misdiagnosis. Excerpt from Page 9:
1.26 On 25 July 2018 the House of Commons Defence Committee presented a report on Mental Health and the Armed Forces, Part One: The scale of mental health issues. The report notes there is a lack of research into the mental health effects of physical exposure to factors such as neurotoxicity or mild traumatic brain injury:
An example is the antimalarial drug Lariam, or Mefloquine, where our predecessor Committee found that a minority of those who used it suffered serious mental health issues. Such side effects were known to occur, yet the Ministry of Defence did not take the appropriate steps to minimise the risks to those whom it prescribed the drug. A number of witnesses have suggested that other drugs being prescribed by the Armed Forces may be having similar effects but that the current lack of research and data over neurotoxicity and its potential mental health effects may be resulting in cases being missed or being misdiagnosed, for example as PTSD.
Medical/MH Note: My opinion is not based on a medical nor mental health background. Just a lived experience former Digger trying to raise awareness on Quinism. Remember, PTSD wasn’t a thing until it was.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Australian man dies while hiking Kokoda Track. Published 16.04.2023. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-17/australian-dies-while-hiking-kokoda-track/102233018
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Tributes flow for SA father and veteran Paul Miller who died during Kokoda Track walk. Published 18.04.2023. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-18/veteran-paul-miller-confirmed-as-kokoda-track-victim/102238292
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Australian Senate. Use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force. Published December 2019.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Government. Information paper: mefloquine and tafenoquine. Published 2019. https://www.dva.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/health%20and%20wellbeing/mefloquine-and-tafenoquine-information-paper.pdf
Marriott, A. (2022). If you wake at midnight. London, UK. Austin, Macauley.
Repatriation Medical Authority, Australian Government. SOPs matching factor Mefloquine. Last modified 2023. http://www.rma.gov.au/sops/search?Number=&Year=&Condition=&Factor=Mefloquine
Wikipedia. Leopold and Loeb. Accessed 19.04.2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_and_Loeb
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