Antimalarials as Torture: Damning Evidence from Guantanamo

Mefloquine was once a common antimalarial, both for prophylaxis, and for treatment given infection. These days, while still available, Malarone is the choice for those who can afford it and Doxycyclene is still commonly used though it’s efficacy is often in doubt. I’ve personally taken Malarone with no ill effects (besides an increased waistline). Mefloquine has fallen out of favor largely due to complaints of serious psychological side effects. It is not recommended for those with underlying psychological issues as it can induce paranoia, rage and vividly violent nightmares. People I know who have taken it have related stories of frighteningly real, sexually violent dreams and of seeing hallucinations of rabid dogs and demonic manifestations.

According to medical records from Guantanamo, the US military prescribed Mefloquine for all detainees upon arrival to the makeshift prison. Not only that, but they also prescribed it at a dose that is 5 times the normal dosage of Mefloquine, and without evaluating detainees for possible preexisting conditions (depression, epilepsy) that rule out the use of Mefloquine. Here is the intake form used at Guantanamo:

Now, Mefloquine is a prophylactic, meaning that it is intended to prevent malaria infection. Malaria is unknown in Cuba. Many of the countries that the detainees came from are malaria endemic countries, but no doctor would ever prescribe Mefloquine without first obtaining a positive test for malaria. The intake form indicates that a malaria test is performed, but that the detainee would have already been given Mefloquine.

The conclusion is that Mefloquine was unnecessarily prescribed at a dosage higher than ever given. The only logical option is that Mefloquine was prescribed at a massive dosage to intensify lvels of fear among detainees, particularly at a time when detainees would already be psychologically compromised. In short, Mefloquine was used at Guantanamo as a form of pharmaceutical torture.

Guantanamo is already a well known stain on our history for reasons that anyone who reads this blog should be well aware of. The Bush admin was one of the worst periods in our history and I regret that I was not educated nor aware enough during those 8 years of insanity to realize how bad it really was. It is, of course, entirely regrettable that the Obama admin didn’t have the fortitude to close Guantanamo down within a week of it’s inauguration.

Allegations of medical experimentation at Guantanamo have persisted for years. The awful mix of torture and medicine raises specters of Josef Mengele and Unit 731. It blatantly violates the central tenet of the Hippocratic Oath that deliberately protects against needless treatment and promotes the welfare of patients. What’s worse, we paid for it. Countless Americans who don’t understand the necessity of due process, the Geneva convention and human rights lent their full support.

The full text of the Seton Hall investigation is here. It’s a fascinating read.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

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