Ely ex-soldier to take action against Ministry of Defence after anti-malaria drug allegedly caused ‘out of body experience’

Daniel Swain (fourth from left) is taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence.

Daniel Swain (fourth from left) is taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence. - Credit: Archant

An ex-soldier from Ely is one of a number of armed forces personnel taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence after allegedly suffering mental health side effects from taking the controversial anti-malaria drug, Lariam.

Former Drum Major Sergeant Daniel Swain is one of 30 who have lodged complaints and are seeking answers after being prescribed the drug, which is said to cause hallucinations, anxiety and severe depression, by the MoD whilst on duty.

The 36-year-old claims he had an ‘out of body experience’ for three days after taking the anti-malaria drug in Afghanistan six years ago, and has since been forced to take redundancy from the Army amidst fears the problem could resurface.

He said: “I was taking Lariam consistently for a few months but the incident in Afghanistan really shocked and scared me”.

“It was a really strange experience and I basically lost three days of my life where it was like an out of body experience and everything I did was like watching myself in a dream. I visited the doctor and saw psychiatrists but I didn’t feel like they were taking me seriously and just put everything down to PTSD.

“I felt I had no choice but to take redundancy as it seemed to me that my chances of moving up the ladder in the Army were being affected by what had happened on that tour.”

“I wasn’t told of any specific risks before being given Lariam. I can remember being told we may have weird dreams, it was issued as part of our pre-deployment checks with our ID discs. But it’s worrying to hear that there is a potential link between people taking the drug and their mental health.

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“I just want answers now about the issues I had in Afghanistan and Cyprus and whether taking Lariam contributed and that’s why I’m taking legal action.”

The group legal action comes after the MoD admitted that Lariam may have been used ‘outside of manufacturers’ guidelines’ following a Defence Select Committee inquiry last year. Despite concerns regarding mental health side effects being known and other anti-malaria drugs being available, the medication continued to be prescribed to British troops.

Kevin Timms, a specialist group actions lawyer, is leading the case on behalf of those affected. He said: “The serious side effects of the use of Lariam have been well known for a number of years, so it is very concerning that the drug was still the first-choice anti-malaria drug for our troops until very recently.

“Through our work we have seen first-hand the devastating effects that Lariam has had on the lives of service personnel and their families. We are now investigating the legal case on their behalf and in some cases have already formally notified the MoD of the intention to bring legal action.

“These brave men and women risked their lives to serve our country and we need to ensure that we are doing everything within our power to make sure their health and well-being is a top priority for the MoD.

“By accepting that they have used the drug outside of the manufacturer’s guidelines, the MOD has taken the first step to redressing military personnel concerns. We hope this is also the first step to the MOD working with us in a collaborative manner to resolve the complaints of the troops for whom we act.”