Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

Category: Mefloquine

32. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Letter to Matt Keogh, 4th June 2022

Matt,

Congratulations on your appointment as the Minister of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). What ever your flavour of politics it has always been a tough portfolio. I wish you luck.

Have you heard about mefloquine? If the answer is no, we should chat.

Regards.

Shane Granger

31. Mefloquine Dispatches: Vanuatu, October 1996

In October 1996 the online parachute company from 3 RAR started to pre-deploy for Vanuatu after the Vanuatu Mobile Force mutinied. The U.S Department of State noted in its Human Rights report on the 30th of January 1997 that:

“The civilian authorities normally control the small police and paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile Force, however, a brief mutiny in October by elements of the VMF over pay issues shook the principle of civilian control. The mutiny was resolved without bloodshed.”

As the situation de-escalated the mission got scrubbed and was quietly forgotten, lost to history. Unfortunately, for the 3 RAR soldiers (along with attachments) they had already been given a Mefloquine Loading Dose.

Here is a text from a Digger who was exposed to Mefloquine on that Operation (along with during normal military service) and has since suffered life altering impacts from the drug. (Note: shared with permission with personal details removed). Excerpt:

Hi Shane. It’s * here. Love to catch up cause (sic) I got no idea what’s happening and am generally confused. I was contacted out of the blue by someone at dva (sic). This was 3 years ago. They said it was some mefloquine program and wanted to speak to me about my exposure to mefloquine. Told him I had no idea what he was talking about. But yes had taken malaria medication in 3 RAR and * in late 90’s. He told me he would email me. Following day a secure encrypted email show up. I ring him, he laughs, says oops and that he will resend it and just to delete it. Of course I don’t. But nothing shows up. I ring dva (sic). They keep fobbing me off saying someone from the mefloquine team will call me back. Never happened. I got shits and stopped calling. 6 months later I ring up to be told it’s an inquiry at the senate and I will need to lodge a claim. Advocates can’t tell me nothing till a month ago when advocate tells me to put in claim for mefloquine acquired anxiety disorder. I mention it to *, they say they saw some 60 mins show about it and was going to ring and ask me if I’d been on it cause of some of the shit I through in * then after discharge in *. So that’s me. I don’t really know more than that

 

This is just one example of the Department of Veterans Affairs covering up Mefloquine use in the ADF during the 1990s prior to the Senate Enquiry into the Use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force. Unfortunately, it is not the only example.

I’ll leave on this note.

Bureaucrats don’t authorise cover-ups. C-Level does, in this case that would be the CDF, the Departmental Secretary and the Minister.

At the time of the Senate Enquiry (June 2018) the CDF was General Angus Campbell, the Departmental Secretary of DVA was General Liz Cosson (Ret) and the Minister was the Honourable Darren Chester.

 

30. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Sandline Affair, 21st March 1997

On the 25th Anniversary of the Sandline Affair I thought it might be worthwhile to publish a couple of items I came across during my mefloquine research. The first is an article originally published on the 21st March 1997 by the Sydney Morning Herald. From the Archives: Gunpoint in PNG; mercenaries evacuated. Excerpt:

The Federal Government placed a crack Army battalion on heightened alert in a contingency plan to evacuate 12,000 Australian citizens from Papua New Guinea as rebel troops bundled the remaining mercenaries out of the country.

Late last night, 55 mercenaries were put on a chartered Air Niugini jet to Hong Kong.

The confrontation between PNG’s rebellious defence force and the Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, over his aborted plan to use the mercenaries in the Bougainville conflict moved towards a showdown yesterday.

The sacked military commander, Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, who still holds the loyalty of most of PNG’s 4,700 troops, rejected the compromise plan by Sir Julius to hold an inquiry into the mercenaries plan, claiming it would be rigged.

Also:

Australian troops have been on alert for the past two days and are ready to move if the crisis worsens. Troops at the First Royal Australian Regiment in Townsville have packed stores, and Hercules transport aircraft at the RAAF base at Richmond have been readied.

It is understood the main purpose of the alert is to have troops ready to assist Australians in PNG if law and order collapses. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned Australians to stay away from PNG’s capital if possible.

The second link is a 20-minute documentary via the ABC and journeyman.tv shot in March 1997 from the ground in PNG with some extraordinary footage. To view: The 10 Days That Shook Papua New Guinea.

970321_Still_ABC_PNGRiots

Synopsis:

This report offers a dramatic overview of the events which triggered Papua New Guinea’s 1997 constitutional crisis. Jerry Singirok, the commander of Papua New Guinea’s Defence Force, was sacked for calling the government out for corruption and for spending over $40m on mercerises for the war in Bougainville. Troops loyal to Singirok revolted and seized control of the main military barracks in the country, creating a huge rift between the government and the army. Meanwhile, protests erupted in the country’s capital Port Moresby, with civilians demanding Prime Minister Julius Chan’s resignation. After MPs voted to keep Chan as Prime Minister, the army joined the protesters in storming the parliament building. Eventually Chan back down and resigned. Filming the chaos first hand, and following a pilot in the military, ABC Australia captures the turmoil that changed the fate of Papua New Guinea, and asks whether Singirok and the army’s actions defended or damaged democracy in the country.

Hotlines

29. Mefloquine Dispatches: Patricia Fernandez de Viana, 10th December 2021

On the final day of Hearing Block 1 for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide (DVSRC) held in Brisbane in December 2021, mother of James, Patricia Fernandez de Viana gave testimony which included a linkage to the use of anti-malarials. Via the AAP and The Guardian. Mother tells veteran suicide inquiry ADF failed to support family after son’s death. Excerpt:

Fernandez de Viana, a wound care specialist nurse, said she discovered the welter of medications her son was on when he died, including experimental treatments for malaria: “I was horrified, absolutely horrified.”

More to follow…

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.

27. Mefloquine Dispatches: McKinsey & Company, 19th October 2021

I completely missed this when it was very quietly released a month ago, so many thanks to Andrew Greene from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for tweeting this out today.

Via the Defence and Veteran Suicide Royal Commission. Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide to open in Brisbane. Excerpt:

Last week the Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel announced the appointment of consultants McKinsey & Company to take action to improve the claims system for supporting veterans, administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Minister is reported to have said that McKinsey & Co would be consulting with bereaved families of veterans who have died by suicide.

What?

The Royal Commission hasn’t even started and the current government is giving money to questionable consultants. The fact that staff from a consulting company would be discussing the deaths of loved ones with bereaved families is beyond my understanding. Then you have the complexities including mefloquine or tafenoquine.

In my view the McKinsey appointment doesn’t pass the pub test.

 

If you need help…

Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.

Submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide

My story starts in 1999 when I first self-reported about mental health concerns. To the best of my knowledge I am the only person to self-report from Operation Baritone (1997).

Two years prior, on the 22nd March 1997 the online company from 3 Brigade including a detachment from the 103rd Signal Squadron of which I was a part, commenced deployment operations for an airlift to Port Moresby as part of a Company Group deployment.

It was the first stage of a larger plan to ‘temporarily’ re-occupy Papua New Guinea during the Sandline Affair.

Things were moving very quickly. The medics and doctors were under intense pressure to get us out the door. A memory from pre-deployment was of the RMO making their notes on the back of the soldier in front of me, then the same for the next in line.

As part of our pre-deployment the company was given a number of medications including a mefloquine loading dose over three days to counteract malaria. After recent investigations I found that anti-malarials was not noted in my official medical records. I have since been able to prove that I was given mefloquine via my Red Cross blood donation history.

Long story short, the Sandline Affair works itself out without Australian intervention and Company Group is given a leave pass to get on the drink. So close though. Another Fiji, 1987.

For many years, I did not remember any detail from this period until a series of ‘flash-backs’ in 2018/19 become so bad that they hospitalised me. Ironically, it is on the 22nd anniversary of Operation Baritone I was finally admitted to a mental health facility.

Mefloquine sent me insane. I attempted suicide in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2014. When I finally confirmed what the Army had done to me in early 2019 I was angry but also a little relieved. I could finally die with a little peace.

When enough memory had returned that I was able to prove the mefloquine exposure I tried to inform all the relevant authorities. Entities such as the Army HQ, the DVA were not interested in finding these men. The Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee were sympathetic but unhelpful.

In summary:

A company of soldiers were given mefloquine in 1997, a medication which was noted by the World Health Organisation as harmful in 1989. Mefloquine has also been linked to suicides and murder-suicides, most notably at Fort Bragg in 2002. It is rarely used these days. It is a medication that the Armed Forces of many countries wish they had never used.

Some from the Company Group may be dead from their mefloquine exposure. Some, like me, are permanently damaged. Many would not have experienced any symptoms and would wonder what all the fuss is about.

At the very least the men of my Company Group assigned to the opening phases of Operation Baritone deserve to be told they were exposed to mefloquine.

For your review and consideration.

26. Mefloquine Dispatches: LBMC, 28th April 1997

I wake up. I’ve managed to snatch a few minutes or hours of blessed sleep. I haven’t slept in a couple of days. I’ve got a whole body rash. In and out of ice-baths and I cannot stop scratching. If that’s not bad enough I can’t sleep as well. Don’t know why. I blame the itching but I’m pretty wired. My hands are covered in scratches. What happened there?

I’m bored. I look around for some alcohol swabs to put on my cut-up hands. There’s none near my bed but the little box is in its place, it’s just happens to be empty. At the next bed, the same story, no swabs. I don’t want to pinch the other bloke in the wards stuff but I’m desperate. I peek over. His are gone too? Curious I go out for a walk to find the duty medic. I know her. We lived together in the same Barracks when I was posted to the BASC unit the previous year.

“Hey T*, you got any alcohol swabs?”

“Sure” she says. She comes over and checks my hands. “Ouch, I saw these when you came in”. She smiles. “Must have been a bit of a scrap?”

I just smile. It’s all a bit fuzzy.

“Anyway, I shouldn’t tell you… but you know that that bloke in the ward with you?”

“Yeah” I reply. I’m interested now. I’ve always loved gossip.

I lay my hands flat on the counter while T* gently cleans the fine wounds. It stings a little.

“Ok, the reason why you don’t have any alcohol swabs is that bloke has been chewing them all. We had to take all the alcohol swabs out of the ward. Must have a big drinking problem, do you think?”

I shrug “Makes sense, I suppose”.

Not really but we all see lots of silly shit in the Army. Medics see it more than most.

24. Mefloquine Dispatches: Sausage rolls and the Red Cross, 1st July 1997

February 2019.

I had been doing memory recall exercises for some weeks at this point.

The process consumes me. I’m not really ready for this type of Rapid Exposure. As I sit with my psychologist we do the work and then he spends time ‘bringing me down’. When I do it on my own I go for hours. I’m a student who thinks he is a professor.

I’m merging into an old pattern which I am starting to recognise. It’s my roller-coaster. Every six to nine months. For more than two decades.

The memory work has been fruitful. I’ve remembered taking the mefloquine which was the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) at the time. Is that enough to prove I was given mefloquine?

One of the boys gives me a doctor in the United States who I can talk to. I approach him with the evidence I have. He advises that it isn’t enough. I have no notation of mefloquine on my medical records. In fact he noted that I was cleared for doxycycline.

I’m devastated. It doesn’t matter what I can remember or what the SOP was at the time, without some sort of concrete evidence I know I’ll have a hard time proving my exposure.

I do more memory work. I should be resting. I look terrible. I feel awful. I’m not sleeping.

I get a memory.

Sausage rolls! I’m sitting in a clinical room across from a nurse who is taking notes. I’m at the Red Cross giving blood. The nurse gets excited about my blood because I had been given an anti-malarial without travelling (which is very unusual). I was there for hours too because I remember getting sausage rolls. In 1997 that was a big deal. Normal blood donations usually meant jatz biscuits with some cheese, not the luxury of sausage rolls!

At this stage I still cannot remember what I was given but despair has turned to elation.

Reality kicks in. What did I tell the nurses back in 1997? If I told them what medications I had taken did they note it? Do the notes still exist? How the hell do I access decades old records from the Red Cross?

I make a call to the Red Cross. They explained the process. I email the paperwork in March 2019.

A doctor from the Red Cross returns my call a week later. The news is confirmation of the worst. I was given mefloquine by the Army in March 1997.

I remember screaming into the sand in front of my kids when I heard the news. It was pure RAGE. We had taken the day off to enjoy a swim at a local creek. I had to collect myself before I thanked the doctor. I am so angry I gave my eldest son my phone. It takes me hours to calm down.

* Red Cross records from 1997

I finally calm down.

The evidence was compelling. Not only had I been given mefloquine in 1997 the Army had failed to note it.

Thank goodness for sausage rolls and the Red Cross!

Mefloquine Dispatches: An Index

Stories linked to my experiences after having taken mefloquine as part of my military service.

  1. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Request to Darren Chester
  2. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Daughter, 2016
  3. Mefloquine Dispatches: Raven, 1990s
  4. Mefloquine Dispatches: Harley Quinn, 1997
  5. Mefloquine Dispatches: @NAB, 20th March 2019
  6. Mefloquine Dispatches: @WHO, 8th August 1989
  7. Mefloquine Dispatches: Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, 11th March 2006
  8. Mefloquine Dispatches: Dr Pepper 2.2. 2011 & 1992
  9. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Joker, 1997 & 2019
  10. Mefloquine Dispatches: Acceptance, October-2019
  11. Mefloquine Dispatches: Full Bloom, 2012
  12. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Claremont Serial Killings, April 1997
  13. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs, 2000
  14. Mefloquine Dispatches: SGADF, 26th September 2019
  15. Mefloquine Dispatches: Suicide Prevention, early 1990
  16. Mefloquine Dispatches: Caravaggio, October 2012
  17. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI, 21st November 2019
  18. Mefloquine Dispatches: Royal Commission, 2020
  19. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lord Dannatt, 28th November 2019
  20. Mefloquine Dispatches: 1800 MEFLOQUINE, 10th May 2019
  21. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mindfulness, 5th December 2019
  22. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mil Mi-24, 27th March 1997
  23. Mefloquine Dispatches: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, 28th February 2020
  24. Mefloquine Dispatches: Sausage rolls and the Red Cross, 1st July 1997
  25. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mefloquine Dispatches: BUPA, 17th June 2021
  26. Mefloquine Dispatches: LBMC, 28th April 1997
  27. Mefloquine Dispatches: McKinsey & Company, 19th October 2021
  28. Mefloquine Dispatches: 3573 – Lambie, Senator Jacqui, 23rd April 2021
  29. Mefloquine Dispatches: Patricia Fernandez de Viana, 10th December 2021
  30. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Sandline Affair, 21st March 1997
  31. Mefloquine Dispatches: Vanuatu, October 1996
  32. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Letter to Matt Keogh, 4th June 2022
  33. Mefloquine Dispatches: Jim Molan, 11th March 2002
  34. REDACTED/DVSRC – Mefloquine Dispatches: Other Suicides, April-1997 (Part One)
  35. Not published
  36. Not published
  37. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lieutenant General John Caligari, 22nd June 2022
  38. Mefloquine Dispatches: Protected Information & Confidentiality @DVSRC, 27th June 2022
  39. Mefloquine Dispatches: Anti-Malarial Medications Health Assessment Program, 15th March 2019
  40. Mefloquine Dispatches: Accessing Superannuation, 17th April – 3rd May 2019
  41. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI – The Last Signalman (9th Sep 2022)
  42. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI – One Document (1st Oct 2022)
  43. Not published
  44. Not published
  45. Not published
  46. Not published
  47. Mefloquine Dispatches: Dun & Bradstreet (28th September 2004)
  48. Mefloquine Dispatches: Homelessness (21st November 2022)