The Quinism Foundation and Veterans for Common Sense Call on Congress to Fund Research into Chronic Quinoline Encephalopathy

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Finds Research is Needed into the Chronic Adverse Effects of Mefloquine and Related Quinoline Antimalarial Drugs

On February 25, 2020, the NASEM committee publicly released its final report. It observed a “disconnect between the level of concern raised–millions of people have used the drugs, and there are many known concurrent events and case reports of adverse events–and the systematic research that has been conducted, particularly in areas such as the use of mefloquine and persistent neurological or psychiatric outcomes.” The committee found “there is a sharp contrast between the abundant amount of literature pertaining to concurrent adverse events that are experienced while a drug is being used or shortly following its cessation and the dearth of information, especially high-quality information, pertaining to adverse experiences after the use of that drug has ended.” [1]

“To address the critical research needs identified by NASEM, Congress should establish chronic quinoline encephalopathy (neuropsychiatric quinism) as a perennial research topic under the Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) within the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP),” said Remington Nevin, MD, MPH, DrPH, executive director of The Quinism Foundation.

The Quinism Foundation and Veterans for Common Sense identified five focus areas for future research, including conducting high-quality epidemiological studies related to persistent health effects of antimalarial quinolines, particularly mefloquine.

“In a chapter titled ‘Improving the Quality of Research on the Long-Term Health Effects of Antimalarial Drugs,'” Dr. Nevin said, “the committee noted the importance of epidemiological study designs that ‘allow for the discovery of symptoms or diagnoses that covary. For example, if certain symptoms or diagnoses occur together in the same patients, there may be reason to consider a syndrome of “neuropsychiatric” symptoms that co-occur, rather than looking individually at separate neurologic or psychiatric experiences.’ The committee also noted that a ‘challenge when studying adverse events of drugs is that the occurrence of adverse events [e.g. prodromal psychiatric symptoms such as nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, and confusion during use of mefloquine (i.e., symptomatic exposure)] may cause an individual to decide to modify the dose, or even stop the drug completely, without consulting a health professional.'”

“This focus area should aim to fund epidemiological studies meeting the NASEM Committee’s criteria relative to persistent health effects of antimalarial quinolines, particularly mefloquine – to include valid assessment of symptomatic quinoline exposure and particularly symptomatic mefloquine exposure, and subsequent covarying symptoms or diagnoses consistent with the described presentation of chronic quinoline encephalopathy,” Dr. Nevin said.

Other focus areas identified include defining persistent central nervous system effects of antimalarial quinoline neurotoxicity, defining adverse neurophysiological effects of antimalarial quinolines, disentangling comorbid neuropsychiatric diagnoses confounded by antimalarial quinoline toxicity, and developing effective treatments.

Dr. Nevin said that, “this latter focus area should aim to develop treatable targets and treatments for patients with putative chronic quinoline encephalopathy – including those diagnosed with PTSD or TBI – to improve their health and lives.” Dr. Nevin said in this respect that, “although the committee wrote in its report that it held open sessions during their study to ‘listen to individual veterans and others, such as spouses and advocates, who are concerned about aspects of health that may be related to use of these antimalarial drugs’, the committee was prohibited from reviewing patient reports.”

“Had the committee been directed or allowed to review the medical records of affected patients, the unmet clinical needs of these individuals would have likely been readily apparent,” said Anthony Hardie, National Chair and Director of Veterans for Common Sense, a national veterans organization.

About The Quinism Foundation

The Quinism Foundation, founded in January 2018, in White River Junction, Vermont, promotes and supports education and research on quinism, the family of medical disorders caused by exposure to quinoline drugs, including mefloquine and tafenoquine. Dr. Remington Nevin, Executive Director of The Quinism Foundation, is a board-certified occupational medicine and preventive medicine physician and former U.S. Army medical officer and epidemiologist. He is author of more than 30 scientific publications on malaria and the quinoline antimalarials.

1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020. Assessment of Long-Term Health Effects of Antimalarial Drugs When Used for Prophylaxis. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.17226/25688.

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