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Is Lariam® Safe?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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The safety of Lariam® has been called into question because a large number of patients taking the drug have experienced severe and long-term side effects. While the most common reactions associated with Lariam® are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness, and other digestive problems, up to 25% of patients taking the drug experience neurological reactions. The medication has not been banned by the Food and Drug Administration or other government agencies, but it is under investigation to determine when its use is warranted.

Patients may be treated with the drug when the disease is more dangerous than the potential side effects. Many patients taking Lariam® have experienced hallucinations, memory loss, paranoia, aggression, and depression. For some patients these reactions may be temporary, but for others, memory loss and other issues can last even after the medication is discontinued. Lariam® is used primarily to treat malaria and for malaria prevention, although it is not effective with all strains of parasite which cause the illness.

Additional medications may be used with Lariam® to address some of the side effects. The use of this drug is often warranted in high risk areas where malaria is widespread, since it can cause serious illness and death in many patients. In locations where malaria occurs only infrequently, it is not recommended that it be used as a prevention of the disease. Patients should also be tested for the exact type of pathogen causing symptoms before it is used for treatment since it is not effective in many situations.

More studies are needed to determine if certain populations are more at risk for long-term adverse reactions from Lariam®. It is not recommended for pregnant women unless absolutely necessary because Lariam® has been associated with birth defects. Although reactions to this drug are sometimes severe, it is unlikely to cause death as malaria can, so in sick individuals, the risk of disease is often greater than the risk associated with treatment.

Some patients may have an allergic reaction to Lariam®, and these individuals will have to be treated with an alternate drug. Very severe cases can lead to shock or cardiac arrest. Rarely, use of Lariam® can cause irregular heart rhythms and other complications. This is not usually fatal, but it may cause serious problems with those who have heart conditions and other illnesses.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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