MP breaks LNP ranks to slam antimalarial drug trial
Herbert MP Phillip Thompson has broken ranks with the LNP to slam a new trial using a controversial antimalarial drug on Australian Defence Force personnel in an effort to combat COVID-19.
Despite the World Health Organisation saying there is not enough definitive evidence it will work, ADF members will be on the front line of the new trial, taking the drug chloroquine, which has been at the centre of multiple debates amid the pandemic.
Earlier this month the ADF was granted ethical approval to carry out the clinical trial, the ABC reported. The trial will explore whether chloroquine is effective in stopping people contracting COVID-19.
In letters obtained by the Townsville Bulletin, Mr Thompson said while he understood the need to find a way to stop people contracting coronavirus, "we should not be using our serving men and women as guinea pigs".
Addressed to Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds, and Defence Personnel and Veterans' Affairs Minister MP Darren Chester, Mr Thompson raised concerns while participation would be voluntary, ADF members would feel pressured to take part.
"The Australian Defence Force has not learnt from what they've done in the early 2000s," Mr Thompson told the Bulletin. "If they're going to put a trial out and use Diggers as guinea pigs again, the Chief of the Defence Force should take it, the Chief of Army should take it, the brigade commanders should take it, leave the Diggers alone."
This is not the first time Mr Thompson has spoken out against the use of antimalarial drugs on ADF personnel.
In 2018, there was a Senate inquiry into the defence force's use of mefloquine and tafenoquine and the impact it had on ADF members' lives.
Veterans spoke out at the inquiry about the severe psychological side effects they had after taking the drugs.
In 2018, Mr Thompson told the Bulletin he had friends who were "used as guinea pigs" and that he had attended the funerals of defence personnel who suicided and had links to the antimalarial drugs.
About 3000 troops were given mefloquine and tafenoquine before they were deployed to East Timor and Bougainville in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Senate inquiry could not find any conclusive evidence. The new trial would involve military personnel and frontline civilian medical workers who volunteer, the ABC reported.
"You would be aware of the many serious and ongoing side effects experienced by ADF members following the use of the drugs tafenoquine and mefloquine," Mr Thompson wrote. "I have had many constituents, as well as veterans from around the country contact me seeking help as a result of the damage caused to their bodies and their lives by these drugs."
The anti-malaria drug became embroiled in an international scandal after US President Donald Trump touted chloroquine as a potential cure in the fight against COVID-19. This resulted in the death of a man who took a fish tank cleaner, chloroquine phosphate, and died.
Chloroquine's side effects include muscle problems, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and skin rash, problems with vision, muscle damage, seizures, and low blood cell levels.
Originally published as Herbert MP breaks LNP ranks to slam antimalarial drug trial