Saturday, November 9, 2002

Woman disputes Army findings

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BETHEL - A Greater Cincinnati family directly affected by the controversial drug Lariam said the Army's investigation into whether the drug caused four Fort Bragg, N.C. killings last summer didn't dig deep enough.

The Army's final report, released Thursday, said the servicemen's existing marital problems and the stress of separation while they were serving their country most likely triggered the killings in June and July.

Lariam is used to prevent malaria and is routinely given to troops sent overseas. But manufacturer Hoffman-La Roche says patients should be told that mental problems such as acute anxiety or depression could signal the start of "a more serious event," and they should switch medications if they experience them.

Three of the servicemen - including Army Master Sgt. William Wright, a 1984 Mason High School graduate - involved Special Operations soldiers who had served in Afghanistan.

Army officials ruled out Lariam as a common link because only two of the soldiers took the drug. Their names have not been released.

Sgt. Wright strangled his wife, Jennifer, on June 29 while their three children slept. Sgt. Wright had just returned from Afghanistan a month before and was living in the barracks because of marital discord.

Linda Perry says her life was directly affected by Lariam. Her husband, Chuck, killed himself in January 1999, several months after he took Lariam so the Bethel couple could celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in Africa.

"I just don't think the investigation went deep enough," Mrs. Perry said. "You just can't negate (Lariam). Has there been any hard science done? If the military continues to prescribe Lariam ... it's going to happen again" she said. She and U.S. Rep. Rob Portman met Friday in Montgomery to discuss Lariam. Mrs. Perry, who has settled a federal lawsuit with the drug's maker - Hoffman LaRoche - feels confident Mr. Portman will do what he can.

Mrs. Perry said her own marriage suffered after her husband's side effects worsened. The once-vibrant hospital administrator failed to take out the trash, keep up with other chores and go to his doctor's appointments.

"You're dealing with somebody who is going mad. They're very difficult to deal with," she said.

The Army's report acknowledged that military culture discourages soldiers and their families from seeking counseling.

Dr. George Deepe, a University of Cincinnati medical school professor who concentrates on infectious diseases, said that the Army's tentative conclusions come as no surprise.

It would be difficult, he said, to directly connect any of the murders to Lariam use.

But perhaps now "the armed services will be a little bit more cautious in prescribing it," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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