Report to FDA links malaria drug to U.S. soldier’s brutal rampage in Afghanistan that left 16 civilians dead
- ‘There is no good reason for why I did the horrible things I did’: In June, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to the rampage
- Antimalarial drug mefloquin has been linked to neurological events in 5 to 10 percent of users
- A 2012 report refers to an ‘adverse event’ where an unnamed soldier killed civilians in Afghanistan after taking the drug
- Bales also admitted to previous steroid use
By Daily Mail Reporter PUBLISHED: 22 July 2013
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty last month of slaughtering village people in the country’s Kandahar province in March 2012. It has since been suggested that Bales’ previous head injury, paired with use of the common drug, contributed to his homicidal actions but no direct link had previously been uncovered.
Now, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration ‘adverse event’ notification has been discovered from 2012 in which the pharmacist refers to a soldier who killed over a dozen Afghani civilians after taking the mefloquine, which is known to adversely affect 5-10 percent of users and comes with a warning that those with previous brain trauma should not use the drug.
As Bales faces a potential life sentence, his attorney John Henry Browne has publicly brought up his history with the controversial malarial drug—which is linked to paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis—while on a previous deployment in Iraq. However, Browne has not said if he intends cite mefloquine as a contributing factor to his client’s crimes.
Browne did admit he had no indication that the pharmacist’s notification was filed by anyone with direct knowledge of Bales’ use of the drug in Afghanistan.
Some experts urge against blaming the drug completely, however.
‘Tens of millions of people take it,’ Dr. David Sullivan of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute told ABC News. ‘Honestly, you cannot implicate any one thing. To put it all on mefloquine is not fair. [Bales] already has a predisposition because of a traumatic brain injury and he has taken this drug in a stressful situation. You have to put it in context here…but you can’t exclude it.’
The pill’s fault? As Bales awaits sentencing, new documents link his behavior to the use of mefloquine, though he also admits to steroid and alcohol use
FDA spokesperson Stephanie Yao told ABC the anonymous report was authentic, though it’s impossible to know who submitted it.
‘These are voluntary reports,’ she said. ‘They are anonymous mainly because of the regulations protecting patient information, so names are not included.’
Dr. Remington Nevin, an Army major and epidemiologist called mefloquine a ‘zombie drug.’
‘It’s dangerous and it should have been killed off years ago,’ said Dr. Nevin, who has published research that he said showed the drug can be potentially toxic to the brain.
He called it ‘probably the worst-suited drug for the military’ and noted that its side effects can closely mirror symptoms of stress disorders related to combat, making diagnosis of neurological problems difficult.
Bales slipped away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost at Camp Belambay early on March 11, 2012, and attacked compounds in nearby villages.
Most of the victims were women and children, and some of the bodies were piled and burned. The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily stopped combat operations in Afghanistan.
Under questioning from the judge, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, Bales said that his use of illegal steroids, which he admitted taking to improve muscle tone and recovery time from missions, also ‘increased my irritability and anger.’
During a nine-day pre-trial hearing last fall, witnesses testified that Bales had been upset by a bomb blast near his outpost that severed a fellow soldier’s leg days before the shootings.
One corporal recounted that in the hours before the rampage he, Bales and a third soldier had been drinking whiskey together while watching the Hollywood film ‘Man on Fire,’ which stars Denzel Washington as a former assassin bent on revenge.
Night-vision video footage taken from a surveillance balloon over the camp captured Bales’ arrest, showing him walking back to the post with a bed sheet or throw rug tied around his neck like a cloak as he is confronted by three soldiers who order him to drop his weapons and then take him into custody.
One of them, drinking buddy Corporal David Godwin, testified that Bales kept repeating the words, ‘I thought I was doing the right thing,’ and, ‘It’s bad. It’s bad. It’s really bad.’
Army officials said some family members of the victims are expected to give statements at the sentencing hearing next month.
The plea deal entered in June was similar to an agreement struck at Lewis-McChord in April, when Army Sergeant John Russell pleaded guilty to killing two fellow U.S. servicemen at a military counseling center in Iraq, near Baghdad’s airport, in a 2009 shooting spree.
Russell was sentenced to life in prison without parole following an abbreviated court-martial stemming from one of the worst cases of violence by an American soldier against other U.S. troops.
A jury will decide in August whether the soldier is sentenced to life with or without the possibility of parole.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2374031/Malaria-drug-linked-U-S-soldiers-murder-16-Afghanistan-civilians-report-FDA.html#ixzz2ZpR1xFeY
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