Australian Soldiers used as Experimental Anthrax Vaccine “Guinea Pigs”
Hundreds of Australian soldiers serving in East Timor were used as guinea pigs by the army in tests of an anti-malaria drug which has psychotic side effects, it was reported today.
The Sunday Telegraph said the soldiers were ordered to take the drug, Larium, by the army as part of tests to observe side effects, which can also include depression and paranoia.
But it said the soldiers claimed they were not fully informed of the possible adverse reactions and some were planning a class action against the army.
Members of the 2RAR battalion and 4RAR commandos had suffered family breakdowns, paranoia and suicidal thoughts after taking Larium, also known as Mefloquine, the paper said.
It said one young soldier, who received three service medals in East Timor, took his girlfriend hostage at gunpoint soon after his return.
Other soldiers had experienced illnesses such as kidney disease and migraine.
It said Brisbane firm Quinn and Scattini would launch a class action against the army on behalf of personnel who took Larium while in East Timor.
“We believe liability will be found in these cases,” lawyer Simon Harrison was quoted as saying.
The paper quoted “army officials” as admitting using soldiers as guinea pigs but claiming the tests involved “dozens” rather than hundreds of soldiers.
But it said soldiers it interviewed estimated the number of soldiers ordered to trial the drug was close to 400.
It said the defence department had denied Larium had any side effects.