A former Navy SEAL is suing pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-LaRoche over its anti-malarial drug Lariam, claiming that it left him permanently disabled. Andrew Sheets, who served in the Navy from 2000 to 2006, took the drug while serving in Afghanistan.
Sheets and his wife, Kristie, claim that Hoffman-LaRoche, better known as Roche, was aware that the drug could cause psychiatric and neurological side effects and failed to warn patients of the risk.
Sheets says he immediately started experiencing “violent and tragic nightmares” after the first time he took the drug while he was deployed in 2003. Later, he claims to have developed extreme paranoia, psoriasis, anxiety, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
According to court documents, “In February 2017, Mr. Sheets was finally described as permanently disabled by his treating physician because of his debilitating, Lariam-related mental disorders.”
Lariam was distributed to troops for more than two decades to aid in the prevention of malaria. At the height of its use in the military in 2003, doctors had written nearly 50,000 prescriptions.
But in 2004, the Veterans Affairs Department urged doctors to stop prescribing Lariam after receiving reports of paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis in some patients. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a “black box” warning, the strongest warning label, to inform patients of its potentially dangerous and permanent side effects.
Veterans in other countries, including Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom, have settled claims or filed lawsuits over injuries caused by the medication. Roche stopped selling its Lariam drug in the U.S., but it is still available as a generic, which is manufactured by another company.
Veterans Affairs physicians have indicated that Sheets’ symptoms are likely due to the drug’s exposure.
The plaintiffs are seeking the maximum damages permitted by law, which could be more than $20 million.
The lawsuit was filed in Sonoma County, California, Superior Court.