Adverse effects of the antimalaria drug, mefloquine: due to primary liver damage with secondary thyroid involvement?

Croft, Ashley M.; Herxheimer, Andrew
January 2002
BMC Public Health;2002, Vol. 2 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Mefloquine is a clinically important antimalaria drug, which is often not well tolerated. We critically reviewed 516 published case reports of mefloquine adverse effects, to clarify the phenomenology of the harms associated with mefloquine, and to make recommendations for safer prescribing. Presentation: We postulate that many of the adverse effects of mefloquine are a post-hepatic syndrome caused by primary liver damage. In some users we believe that symptomatic thyroid disturbance occurs, either independently or as a secondary consequence of the hepatocellular injury. The mefloquine syndrome presents in a variety of ways including headache, gastrointestinal disturbances, nervousness, fatigue, disorders of sleep, mood, memory and concentration, and occasionally frank psychosis. Previous liver or thyroid disease, and concurrent insults to the liver (such as from alcohol, dehydration, an oral contraceptive pill, recreational drugs, and other liver-damaging drugs) may be related to the development of severe or prolonged adverse reactions to mefloquine. Implications: We believe that people with active liver or thyroid disease should not take mefloquine, whereas those with fully resolved neuropsychiatric illness may do so safely. Mefloquine users should avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, hormonal contraception and co-medications known to cause liver damage or thyroid damage. With these caveats, we believe that mefloquine may be safely prescribed in pregnancy, and also to occupational groups who carry out safety-critical tasks. Testing: Mefloquine's adverse effects need to be investigated through a multicentre cohort study, with small controlled studies testing specific elements of the hypothesis.


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