Mass administration of the antimalarial drug mefloquine to Guantánamo detainees: a critical analysis
Recently, evidence has emerged from an unusual form of mass drug administration practised among detainees held at US Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (‘Guantánamo’), ostensibly as a public health measure. Mefloquine, an antimalarial drug originally developed by the US military, whose use is associated with a range of severe neuropsychiatric adverse effects, was administered at treatment doses to detainees immediately upon their arrival at Guantánamo, prior to laboratory testing for malaria and irrespective of symptoms of disease. In this analysis, the history of mefloquine’s development is reviewed and the indications for its administration at treatment doses are discussed. The stated rationale for the use of mefloquine among Guantánamo detainees is then evaluated in the context of accepted forms of population‐based malaria control. It is concluded that there was no plausible public health indication for the use of mefloquine at Guantánamo and that based on prevailing standards of care, the clinical indications for its use are decidedly unclear. This analysis suggests the troubling possibility that the use of mefloquine at Guantánamo may have been motivated in part by knowledge of the drug’s adverse effects, and points to a critical need for further investigation to resolve unanswered questions regarding the drug’s potentially inappropriate use.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Preventive Medicine, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, Ft. Polk, LA, USA
Publication date: October 1, 2012