Dr seeks review into ruling about antimalarial drugs
AN INDEPENDENT statutory body will review a Repatriation Medical Authority ruling that there is insufficient evidence controversial antimalarial drugs cause chronic brain injury.
The Federal Government’s Specialist Medical Review Council has confirmed it has been asked to review the RMA’s August ruling against establishing Statements of Principles (SoPs) in respect of “chemically acquired brain injury caused by mefloquine, tafenoquine or primaquine”.
SoPs are used in determining claims for liability for injuries, diseases and deaths under federal legislation.
Neuroscientist Dr Jane Quinn applied for the council review, which must be made within three months of an RMA decision.
Dr Quinn said she sought the review as she felt the original RMA investigation was “fundamentally flawed”.
“The way the original investigation had been worded made it very difficult for evidence to be provided,” she said.
“If SoPs can be established, it provides an avenue for people to be recognised, compensated and treated for a condition they believe they have.”
Mefloquine has been banned for use by soldiers in Germany and the US Army Special Operations Command.
It is also a drug of last resort in Australia, the US, UK and most recently Canada. Tafenoquine, which has been trialled on Defence personnel, is yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The two drugs and primaquine were given to Australian soldiers in a number of trials between 1999 and 2002.
The medications have been the subject of claims from veterans that they are linked to acquired brain injuries and chronic mental illness.
Last month, Anthony Cole, a former Irish army sergeant, sued the State in the High Court of Ireland as a result of lasting side effects he claimed to have suffered from taking mefloquine.
British newspaper The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that Mr Cole received a “significant payment” but there was no admission of liability, and the settlement involved withdrawing any claim relating to the Defence Force’s choice of mefloquine as the antimalarial drug for soldiers.
Mr Cole reportedly did not withdraw his claim that the drug had caused long-term psychological damage.
Dr Quinn said the Irish case set a legal precedent.
“If we’re having people have claims accepted for the DVA equivalent in America and now there has been the successful court ruling in Ireland, it would be a very sensible approach to use the instruments the Australian Government has to provide people with appropriate treatment and care rather than go down the path of litigation,” Dr Quinn said.
For advice on the preparation of written submissions contact the Council Secretariat on 3223 8840, or via the website http://www.smrc.gov.au.