Lariam (mefloquine) is a medication that works by interfering with the growth of parasites in red blood cells. It is used to treat malaria, a disease common in Africa, South America and Southern Asia. Malaria is usually caused by mosquito bites. Lariam is often prescribed to travelers and military as they head overseas. It has been prescribed to more than 25 million people worldwide and has proved one of the most effective treatments for malaria.
Lariam has been linked to serious side effects such as suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This side effect came to light when soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C. went on a killing spree before killing themselves. Army investigators linked the use of Lariam to these soldiers’ actions.
The FDA has investigated 600 reports of adverse reactions due to Larium. Half of those were psychiatric; 13 patients reported suicidal thoughts, four patients attempted suicide, and one succeeded.
Roche USA, the manufacturer of Lariam, advised in 1999 that doctors not prescribe the drug to people that have a history of depression or psychosis. The manufacturer also warned against giving the drug to pregnant women.
Serious side effects may include:
- Depressed mood, feeling restless or anxious
- Confusion, extreme fear, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior
- Severe or uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea
- Cough, wheezing, feeling short of breath
- Nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Mouth sores
- Unusual aches and pains, tired feeling, weight loss
- Severe skin rash
- Easy bruising or bleeding
Less serious side effects may include: