Scientists pinpoint Yushchenko poison
Dioxin is element in Agent Orange
By Emma Ross, Associated Press | December 18, 2004
LONDON -- Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with TCDD, the most harmful known dioxin and one contained in Agent Orange, a scientist who analyzed his blood said yesterday.
The tests showed the TCDD was pure and must have been concocted in a laboratory, lead investigator Abraham Brouwer said. The tests, confirmed by three labs in the Netherlands and Germany, also confirmed that Yushchenko's blood contained 100,000 units of the poison, the second-highest concentration in a human on record.
Doctors announced last weekend that the 50-year-old Yushchenko was poisoned with a dioxin chemical that left him disfigured, but Brouwer said his team has now zoned in on TCDD, the most hazardous of all the dioxins.
There are hundreds of dioxins and they are usually produced inadvertently during manufacturing processes that use chlorine, such as those for herbicides, paper and pulp bleaching. Waste incinerators also produce dioxins.
TCDD was an element in Agent Orange, a herbicide sprayed by US troops during the Vietnam War to clear dense vegetation and expose their enemy. The herbicide became infamous after being linked to myriad health problems in veterans and villagers.
The poison, chemically known as tetrachlorodibenzoparadioxin, usually occurs mixed with other dioxins produced by the same processes. However, the investigation led by Brouwer at BioDetection Systems in Amsterdam, found Yushchenko ingested pure TCDD, not a mixture.
''That excludes a huge number of sources," said dioxin specialist Dr. Arnold Schecter, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas who was not involved with the probe. ''If it's pure TCDD, that means it could only be labs that buy or sell TCDD [for research purposes], government biological or chemical weapons units, or a clever chemist."
Brouwer agreed that the search for a source can now be focused on those three possibilities.
Half of VA appeals bounce back here
May 5, 2005
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter
Nearly half of all Illinois veterans' disability cases appealed to Washington this year are being kicked back to the Chicago Veterans Affairs office as incomplete, adding years onto a backlog of appeals cases.
The typical appeals case by a disabled veteran takes about two years to be decided, but a single "remand" from Washington to the regional Veteran Affairs office for more information can tack on at least two years to that challenge, veterans representatives say.
"Remands add to the agony of the veteran and keep him in a perpetual state of limbo," said David Rogers, 57, a veteran who said it took 11 years for his disability appeal to be decided by the Board of Veterans Appeals.
"The Chicago regional office has a tendency to be lackadaisical -- to use a kind word -- or not as thorough as they should be before they send a file back to the Board of Veterans Appeals," said Rogers, who had his appeal remanded three times to the Chicago VA for more information that he says was not provided during the board's first request.
The VA does not discuss specific disability claims and the Chicago VA spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Last year, the appeals board decided 37,837 cases, remanding half of those back to the regional offices where they were first decided. Chicago had 56 percent of its appeals cases kicked back that year for more information.
300 on federal board
This year so far, 182 cases out of 376 -- 48 percent -- decided by the Board of Veterans Appeals have been remanded back to the Chicago VA for more documents or further medical exams. The national average this year so far is 42 percent.
Appealing to the federal board -- made up of 300 attorneys and law judges -- allows veterans to challenge disability decisions made at the local level. Last year, Illinois veterans filed local disagreements on 13 percent of cases decided in Chicago and appealed 3 percent to the Washington appeals board. Filing a disagreement with the regional office is one way veterans try to forgo the lengthy appeals process set up in Washington.
While some veterans complain about their cases being remanded back because it adds years to an already lengthy process, some veterans representatives say they would prefer having the board send a case back for more information rather than deny an appeal.
FORTY YEARS after the American military was allowed to test-bomb a New Brunswick army base with deadly "Agent Orange" herbicide, the Canadian government is finally admitting that veterans are dying as a result of being poisoned.
The department of national defence has confirmed that in 1966, U.S. forces doused forested areas of the Gagetown base with the infamous chemical defoliant, testing it for clearing jungle during the Vietnam War.
Since then, Agent Orange has been linked to a horrifying array of cancers, diabetes, respiratory diseases and blindness among U.S. veterans -- not to mention two generations of sick Vietnamese -- and even birth defects in children of vets.
But for decades, the Canadian military has refused to acknowledge the Gagetown horror ever happened, much less any connection between Agent Orange and sick vets.
Sun Media has now learned that 10 months ago, for the first time in four decades, the government quietly accepted a medical compensation claim from a retired Canadian brigadier general stricken with leukemia.
Gordon Sellar, a decorated officer of foreign wars with the Calgary Highlanders, rose to the very top of Canada's military, retiring as head of Canada's land forces.
But during this storied career, he also commanded the Black Watch regiment at Gagetown -- sadly, at the precise time the U.S. was poisoning the place with Agent Orange.
In a landmark decision, the department of veterans affairs has ruled that Sellar's cancer was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange. "The department is aware that Agent Orange was used as a herbicide for defoliation on the training grounds of CFB Gagetown," the confidential memorandum states.
"The department accepts the medical opinion (of Sellar's doctors) and the results of published U.S. medical research that establishes a causitive relationship between Agent Orange exposure and the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia."
The decision was so strong and unequivocal that it provided the maximum possible pension compensation.
More significantly, it should open the door to similar claims from potentially thousands of other sick and dying Canadian vets exposed to Agent Orange at Gagetown.
An official at veterans affairs admits the department has done nothing to publicize the Sellar decision nor otherwise reach out to help victims of Agent Orange. "Perhaps when your article appears, more will come forward," the official said.
If so, the Sellar decision will stand as a fitting final salute to a revered general who cared deeply about the men in his command, a soldier who would have done anything to spare others the medical misery wrought upon their ranks.
A decorated war hero who survived the bloody battlefields of Europe and Korea, it is surely beyond cruel that Gordon Sellar would be felled on a chemical killing field at his own base.
On Oct. 1, 2004, two weeks after the first compensation payment appeared in his pension cheque, the brigadier-general lost his final battle, a 15-year fight with the cancer he inherited from Agent Orange.
At his side, as she had been throughout his long illness, was the love of his life, Gloria, his wife and soulmate of 60 years. At 77, for all the hard years of caring for her ailing husband, she remains a remarkable woman of quiet grace, intelligence and wit.
If the Agent Orange victory belongs to anyone in this country, it is to this elegant lady of steely tenacity for whom even the indomitable defence bureaucracy was clearly no match.
Gordon Sellar is seen on manoeuvres in what became the chemical killing fields of Gagetown. The feds have admitted Agent Orange was used there.
THE FIRST time Gloria saw the chemical drums with their telltale orange stripes was in the U.S. Army trucks parked at the Oromocto Hotel next to the Gagetown base.
"We were between houses and staying at the hotel," she recalled during an interview last week. "The American soldiers were staying there too and would come in every evening filthy dirty. It was no secret what they were doing. Of course, no one realized the potential of what was happening at the time. I hate to think what happened to those poor men."
Gordon Sellar began his career fighting overseas in WWII with the Calgary Highlanders. By the time he reached Gagetown in 1963, he was a colonel and commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Black Watch, with more than 1,000 men under him.
Like all infantry in training, they probably spent more time on their bellies than on their feet. Little did they know they were crawling through an invisible swamp of deadly poison.
"We exercised for lengthy concentrated periods in the contaminated areas," he would later write in one official memo. "We lived on the ground in camp and trained both day and night. Our food was prepared there ... in areas that had been defoliated.
"We didn't know it was Agent Orange."
Gloria has trouble looking at photographs from those days, the one of Gordon in his full field gear, another of the two of them when they were leaving Gagetown in 1967.
"I look at the two of us in that picture, and think, gosh, we just didn't have a clue what had happened ... By then, it (Agent Orange) was already there; it had started."
Over the next decade, Sellar continued marching to the top of the military, retiring in 1977 as the director general of Canadian land forces in Ottawa.
Gloria says the ensuing 15 years were a dream fulfilled, living on a 58-acre country estate north of Kingston, close to their three grown children, free to pursue a passion for horses that first brought the couple together as kids growing up in Calgary.
As always, Gordon kept in top physical condition. Until one day in 1994 when the dizzy spells started.
A simple blood test revealed the horrible truth: He had a form of leukemia that could spread cancer anywhere in his body at any time -- one of the diseases associated with Agent Orange.
By then, the effects of the odious Vietnam herbicide were being loudly debated in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of vets on a special government health watch.
Before long, Gloria put it all together with the orange barrels and the American soldiers at the Oromocto Hotel.
"We were obviously shattered by all this, and I said to the doctor at the time that this man had been exposed to Agent Orange.
"And he just said, 'Oh?' He didn't know anything about it."
THE LIVING area of the Kingston condominium is dominated by two large oil paintings on opposite walls, portraits of Gordon and Gloria Sellar staring out at the one thing that mattered most in their six decades together -- each other.
On this day, the two faces painted in happier times are looking across a huge dining table covered in stacks of books, research papers and correspondence.
It is all the ammunition in Gloria's arsenal for a 15-year campaign to bring sense to the unthinkable -- her husband's slow decline into a medical hell not of his own making.
It started with debilitating bouts of pneumonia that put him into hospital, his immune system all but wiped out by the leukemia. Then came the tumours -- first one under his eye, then on the side of his head, then one in his ear, reduced with so much chemotherapy that his trips to the cancer clinic became daily.
Every time her husband was examined by doctors from veterans affairs, Gloria was on their case about Agent Orange.
Why was it not being recognized by the Canadian government, the same government that let Americans spray it all over Gagetown? And what about thousands of other men exposed?
She started burying veterans affairs in letters and thick files of information she had gathered on Agent Orange.
"They were actually very good with me. They seemed quite surprised by some of the information I was giving them. It's just that everything moves so very slowly."
Everything except her husband's cancer. By 2000, he was in a wheelchair, and their beloved country estate, horses and their teams of prize hunting dogs were all gone.
In May 2003, he entered a chronic-care hospital to recover from an emergency hernia operation. He would never go home.
Despite virtually moving in to the hospital, Gloria kept up her crusade for justice. All she wanted was a simple recognition that Agent Orange was killing her husband, and possibly legions of others like him.
She tried to track down members of the Black Watch who had served under him. Many were sick. Many more had already died. All were afraid to talk about the dirty secret of Gagetown.
The Canadian defence department wasn't helping. As late as February 2004, the Canadian military posted a stunning "health bulletin" on its government website. By then, more than 10,000 American veterans of the Vietnam War were in active treatment for cancers and other diseases related to Agent Orange. Another 312,000 were under medical surveillance.
Yet the Canadian bulletin stated "extensive research" had concluded that "Agent Orange was unlikely to be the cause of the (Vietnam) veterans' symptoms or illnesses."
Only months after the bulletin was issued, Gloria won her case with veterans affairs, the government having finally acknowledged that Agent Orange had indeed given her husband terminal cancer.
He died a few weeks later.
GORDON SELLAR'S funeral attracted some of Canada's finest soldiers still alive. One of them had been a young lieutenant in the Black Watch at Gagetown during the Agent Orange tests.
"How are you doing?" someone asked.
"Not too well," the man replied. "No one seems to know why, but I have throat cancer and I have never smoked."
Fredericton Residents "Shocked and Awed" by Armed Forces Day
August 1-A growing number of Fredericton residents are voicing concern over the use of public space for the fourth annual Armed Forces Day in Fredericton. Fredericton residents plan to respond to what they refer to as "celebration of aggression and militarism" with an all-ages Picnic For Peace on the Green, according to a news release from F.R.E.E.D.O.M. (Fredericton Residents for Education on the Economically-Motivated Deployment Of the Military).
"The annual military occupation of Fredericton's largest common space is unacceptable and must stop," says Asaf Rashid, a PhD candidate with the department of Forestry and Environmental Management at the University of New Brunswick. "To present militarism as family entertainment is a gross educational failure to which we must respond as a community."
During last year's Armed Forces Day on the Green in Fredericton, children were encouraged to play with assault rifles, have their faces painted in camouflage, ride in tanks and military helicopters and walk through a make-believe mine field.
"Young people's lives are saturated with glorified images of war, so to actually see young children playing with machine guns and laughing as they ride on an LAV is really chilling," says Andrea Markey, who lives downtown. "The future of our planet depends on this generation understanding that war means death and pain for children all over the world -- and not a sunny day in the park with lots of flags."
Similar military spectacles glorifying the Armed Forces and the NATO military pact, such as the Nova Scotia Tattoo, nonstop "freedom of the city" ceremonies for military regiments, the Shearwater Air Show, "open house" ceremonies and "dial-a-sailor" programs for visiting U.S. and British warships were systematically created and developed in Halifax from the late 1970s onward. Massive expenditures of tax-dollars were devoted to these spectacles, with accompanying accolades by the media. Inevitably they served to camouflage heightened physical preparations for war on the ground, in the strategic harbour and along the coasts, and justify tension abroad and, in fact, constituted a necessary posological preparation for war. As such, they were vigorously and publicly opposed by the peace-loving, anti-imperialist forces of the city through innumerable pickets, demonstrations, sit-ins, mass petitions, teach-ins, leaflets and pamphlets, film and video, and such slogans as "No Harbour for War!"
In the same fashion today the vast expanses of Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, halfway between Fredericton and the port of Saint John, are being groomed as the largest military base in the Commonwealth. Motorized army regiments based there were requested by the Pentagon earlier this year to spearhead its invasion of Iraq. British and U.S. special forces also conduct specialized training at the base, which is very near to the U.S.-Canadian border, and low in altitude compared to northwestern New Brunswick, and the Saint John River, rising near the border of northern Maine. The U.S. National Guard have conducted so many training operations at CFB Gagetown since the 1960s that it is difficult at times to distinguish it from a regular overseas U.S. military base. In fact the Office of the Secretary of Defence defines an American military base as any installation "routinely used" by its military forces. 
This becomes quite dangerous to New Brunswickans and Canadians, as shown by the fact that it was here at CFB Gagetown that the chemical warfare Agent Orange was secretly tested in the Sixties and then covered up by the Department of National Defence until 1983. The United States is now in the process of expanding its base presence and staging areas in the Americas, all in the interests of expanding its political and economic hegemony.  But this includes North as well as South America and the Caribbean. According to Dr. Floyd Rudmin, then of Queens University, who conducted an extensive historical study of American military operations along the border, such bases, troop deployments and exercises on both sides of the New England/Canadian border were considered vital as spheres or spearheads for the "War Plan Red" -- authorized by the U.S. cabinet and drafted by the U.S. Army War College -- for a motorized invasion of Canada as recently as 1935.  In this regard, new plans for a new billion-dollar, four-lane, limited access turnpike (called the East-West Highway) to bisect Maine , running from St. Stephen to New Hampshire and then connecting with Quebec are as fortuitous as the first military roads over the Green Mountains built between 1776-79.  As a consequence, increased attention is being made to divert and hoodwink opinion and stage sunny military spectacles in urban population areas such as Fredericton. And, in the same spirit as the 1980s, people are increasingly activating themselves to oppose such nefarious spectacles.
Concerned Fredericton residents plan to present a petition to Mayor Les Hull requesting that Armed Forces Day be staged on Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, in Oromocto, rather than in downtown Fredericton. Fredericton residents protested at City Hall at on August 4. A teach-in "Militarism, War and Resistance" also took place at Wilmot United Church on August 3. Hiroshima Day was commemorated in Fredericton on August 6.
1. James R. Blaker, United States Overseas Basing (New York: Praeger, 1990), 9, 37
2. "The Bases of Empire," Monthly Review, Vol 53, No. 10, April 2002
3. "Supplement No. 3 To Report Of Committee No. 8, Subject: Critical Areas Of Canada And Approaches Thereto" Prepared by: Subcommittee No. 3 / Major Charles H. Jones, Infantry, Chairman. Lt. Col. H.W. Crawford, Engineers.
4. See www.east-westhighway.com
5. See http://www.uvm.edu/~vhnet/hertour/hthome05.html
Order free DVD on Agent Orange..
Please send an email to email@example.com with your name and full address and they will send 1 DVD to you for FREE. or call (863) 646-1237 (Adam's Home)
visit web site
Making a film takes time and money, which is recuperated from the sale of the film. When we started this film two years ago we had all intention of trying to break even by charging a nominal fee. But as time has gone on we realized that we can't do this. We have NOT sold one DVD yet, but we have given out many. The DVD's that we have given out have already helped the lives of some Vietnam Veterans. So, we have decided NOT to charge for the DVD. All we require is that once you have viewed the film that you tell at least one person about the defoliants sprayed in Vietnam and how our American Vietnam Veterans can get help.
Please send an email to us with your name and full address and we will send 1 DVD to you for FREE.
firstname.lastname@example.org or call (863) 646-1237 (Adam's Home)
Stephanie Jobe and Adam Scholl
Note: The DVD can't be sold. Further more it can't broadcasted on TV, Movie Theater, or shown in any location that charges admission without Stephanie Jobe's and Adam Scholl's written permission. The DVD is for home personal use only.
Vietnam veterans should visit these web sites
www.aowac.org Widows coalition
Subject: ATTENTION huge win for the DMZ veterans
Guess what fella's,
All of your efforts paid off--the 1/31st 2nd/31st and the 2/32nd have been
added to the approved list--
The Grandfathers that helped to make this possible are listed as:
LTC John F. Eiser
LTC Frank Oblieger JR.
They also named Camp Casey and Mata.
These fella's are my hero's and helped to bring this issue to the fore
http://veterans.house.gov/democratic/of ... chment.pdf
Also note on 9/8/04 Cong. Evans office also told me VA is working on updated
info for you and know that 67 days in 1967 is also being added due to
testing that occurred during that time. They could not go into details on
all of the updates as they are not clear how certain things will be written
but the updates have to do with how the DMZ veterans can prove exposure in
Korea for those that did not serve on the DMZ--
HUGE WIN FOR OUR VETERANS--Congrats guys for a job well done--
Congressman Evas--thank you for all that you do in assisting our Veterans.
MP riled by Agent Orange
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, OTTAWA BUREAU, SUN MEDIA
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/20 ... 4-sun.html
OTTAWA -- The Liberal government has promised to compensate sick and dying veterans exposed to Agent Orange but failed to take steps to alert people of potential hazards, a Conservative MP charges.
Dave MacKenzie questioned the government's sincerity when it offered financial assistance to the sick ex-soldiers exposed to the poisonous chemical tested at CFB Gagetown.
He urged the government to share information and help track down those harmed.
"I'm concerned about how genuine their commitment is," he said. "I'm concerned about the speed at which they are working to get the information out."
Veterans Affairs has said it will alert a veterans' newsletter about Agent Orange, used by the U.S. to kill ground cover during the Vietnam War. It was tested at CFB Gagetown in 1966, and is known to cause cancer, diabetes and birth defects.
New Brunswick MLA Jody Carr is pressing the Ottawa to extend compensation to civilians who worked on the base and neighbouring residents. "It's the fair thing to do," he said.
Excerts :: From the Testimony of CHARLES W. KELLEY
http://www.2ndbattalion94thartillery.co ... usecom.htm
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
PRESENTATION BY CHARLES W. KELLEY
December 6th 2005
This White House/DOD/VA philosophy seems to permeate research and similar studies for Gulf War Syndrome, anthrax vaccine recipients, the Veterans of Project 112 testing and SHAD testing, and the Edgewood Arsenal testing, etc. There is also the known previous history of DOD/VA cover-ups in Nuclear Testing and LSD testing.
It is time all past, present, and future Veterans make this White House/DOD/VA philosophy a National Security Issue. This especially holds true for the mothers and fathers that this government wants to send their sons and daughters into harms way. They need to realize “The Last Battle They Will Fight” is against our own government.
Yet, still to this day Congress will not address this issue of the DOD is presently allowed to do anything it wants with no accountability, including what many consider "crimes against humanity itself," in biological, toxic chemical, and chemical toxin testing which this very country hanged individuals for after WW2. Thus leaving the Veterans with no legal redress as guaranteed by the constitution that "they alone" so valiantly and honorably fought to protect.
Add to this the omnipotent sole power and a “totally separate legal system” with no rules of any constitutional oversight given to VA by Congress in C.F.R 38, paragraph 511 and you have total government anarchy for one complete segment of society in this nation called “Veterans.”
The pledge that congress repeats daily is: I pledge allegiance...with liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL. This pledge does not have an extra note that says "ALL" is not inclusive for those citizens that once wore the uniform of the United States Military.
“At what level do you think Government should consider compensation? Should we have a no shadow of a doubt? The reason why I am asking the question is I have concluded, based on our work that we have done on Gulf War illnesses, based on our review of Agent Orange, that I have to be honest with our veterans. By the time we will know the scientific data, you are dead. You will either have died early or you will have died in your old age in pain, but you will not get help from the Federal Government.”
What the congressman left out was; this is all White House/DOD/VA purposefully calculated and planned for politics and money
Ordered Into Madness
The Military Use of Lariam
BY RICHARD CURREY
On August 9, 2005, a Marine Corps discharge board at Camp Pendleton, California, directed that a career Marine named Matthew Hevezi be summarily discharged from the service.
Hevezi, a Gunnery Sergeant with 18 years of service, was a devoted Marine and believer in the code of the Corps, “Semper Fidelis.” He held the ethics of the Marines to be as reliable as the turning of the earth—until he suffered a bizarre reaction to an anti-malarial drug called Lariam and found his beloved service disinclined to honor his commitment and loyalty, or respond to his calls for help. Indeed, there seemed to be no stopping a service ultimately determined to show him the door.
The case of Matt Hevezi is a vivid illustration of the military’s failure to come to terms with Lariam, a lapse that comes at great cost to individuals and families ruined by debilitating reactions to a little white pill.
Malaria is an old nemesis for deployed troops, going back to the days of quinine as a preventative. By the 1970s there was growing resistance to conventional drug treatments. Despite the use of these medicines, malaria-causing parasites displayed an increasing capacity to sicken troops. A new drug clearly was needed.
DoD funded an aggressive search for that new drug. Many compounds were considered and evaluated until a drug called mefloquine emerged. DoD called on pharmaceutical giant Roche to manufacture and distribute the medication, which was approved by the FDA in 1989 and launched with the trade name Lariam.
Peculiar psychological effects were reported in the medical literature almost immediately.
The first report appeared in the respected medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine, describing a case of confusion and disordered speech in an individual who had taken the drug.
The second report came just 15 days later, claiming memory lapses after Lariam use. Three months after that, another report described an episode of acute psychosis following Lariam use.
These reports raised no particular concerns at the time. Lariam, many assumed, was an innocent bystander in these cases—a red herring. And case reports, by their very nature, are observational, speculative, and often subjective.
But the reports kept coming, each one offering another snapshot of Lariam-related behavioral oddities. People took Lariam and became disoriented, hostile; in some cases, psychotic or suicidal. The year 1996 saw 15 such reports in the scientific literature. Since then, news of Lariam’s connection with psychological and nervous system dysfunction have appeared ever more frequently.
Use With Care
Lariam has been administered to thousands of service members, although Pentagon records are fuzzy on how many have received the drug, where or under what circumstances, or how many took the drug as it was meant to be used. And while reports of Lariam toxicity led DOD to set limits on the drug’s use in 2004, it remains approved for use “in the correct circumstances. In places where we know that a strain of malaria is resistant to drugs other than Lariam, we use the Lariam,” said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, Deputy Director of the Deployment Health Support Directorate in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “But the drug should be used with care. Individuals with a prior history of depression or other mental health issues must be carefully screened.”
One problem in establishing Lariam policy, according to Kilpatrick, is a paucity of “hard data.” But evidence-based research is beginning to appear that directly connects Lariam to malfunctions in balance and spatial orientation and interference with critical messenger proteins in the brain.
Particularly compelling is the news from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (the place where Lariam was born some 25 years ago) that Lariam “severely disrupts” calcium balance in the central nervous system—the brain and the primary nerve cells leading to and from the brain. The Army research team posited that this disruption may lie behind Lariam’s “neurotoxic effects,” noting that Lariam concentrates in the brain at elevated levels and there is a “higher incidence of adverse events observed when the drug is used at higher doses.”
“We know that Lariam distributes throughout the body, and that it can affect the brain,” said Dr. Kilpatrick. “There are recognized neurological and sensory side effects that can occur in some people. But what percentage of people is that? You look at multiple studies and see figures running from as low as 3 percent to as high as 60 percent. And how long do these symptoms persist? The studies we have don’t carry on long enough to tell us. I think for people who develop symptoms after using any drug, the questions are: Did those symptoms develop because of the drug, or would those symptoms have emerged anyway? And that’s the hardest part of trying to provide care [to Lariam-exposed people].
“We’re dropping back and taking a bigger look at Lariam,” Kilpatrick said. “We’re conducting more studies in military people. But the problem with this kind of science—particularly for those people experiencing a medical problem now—is that it takes time. We’re not talking weeks or months, we’re talking years. And because it’s a new field of inquiry, you get more questions than answers on the first round of research.”
Whatever the current state of the science, this much is clear: In the 16 years since Lariam was introduced, it has been increasingly implicated in a string of health effects that include seizure-like episodes, uncontrollable shaking, vertigo, memory lapses, frightening dreams, debilitating depression, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, homicidal rages, and attempted as well as successful murders and suicides.
A Strange Turn
Gunnery Sergeant Matt Hevezi, a public affairs specialist and photojournalist, first took Lariam in the spring of 2001. The drug was dispensed prior to deployment to Thailand from his home base in Okinawa. He received no specific instructions other than to take the pill once a week. He was not asked about his medical history nor advised about potential side effects.
It was after returning to his family in Okinawa that life took a strange turn. Hevezi became convinced his landlord was trying to poison him. His wife, confused, assured him that no such thing was happening.
“A part of me,” Hevezi said, “knew I wasn’t making sense. But the idea seemed to have a strength all its own. It was almost as if somebody or some thing had got into my head and was beyond my control. I didn’t feel like I was me anymore. I began to feel a desperation about what might be happening. I became frightened, and that went beyond the landlord. I started to be afraid of my wife. I decided I couldn’t trust her. I felt the same way about guys I worked with: I thought they were out to get me.”
As his marriage deteriorated, Hevezi found solace in sleeping in his car. “I needed places where I had some relief and felt safe. Work was hard, home was a struggle, and I wasn’t handling things very well. Worst of all, I didn’t know what was going on.” Unable to put a finger on why his life was falling apart, he simply presumed this was what “going crazy” felt like, that madness must happen this way, arriving abruptly and without warning to destroy a man’s life.
A further complication for Hevezi is the military’s bias against those who acknowledge mental health difficulties. “I was avoiding going in for care,” Hevezi said. “I didn’t want to get labeled as weak.”
“I think it’s widely understood that a trip to the division psychiatrist is a career-ender,” said Landon Hutchens, a former Marine Corps major who served as operations officer for Hevezi’s unit in Okinawa and Thailand.
Hutchens, deputy director of Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs and Matt Hevezi’s supervisor for two years, observed that lip service is given to sensitivity about emotional issues inside the military—but the truth is otherwise. “If a Marine has an emotional concern,” Hutchens said, “even as legitimate as combat-related PTSD, that Marine better do everything possible to keep the problem private and solve it on his or her own terms.”
So Matt Hevezi, fearful of the taint that counseling or psychotherapy might bring, weathered his distress and frustration silently for months. He often slept less than four hours a night. “I would just wake up for no apparent reason. If I tried to go back to sleep, my mind ran away with fear and guilt and all kinds of bad thoughts,” he said.
Hevezi’s wife, Adriana, went from bewilderment to alarm. Her husband announced that he might die. He thought a colleague had nefarious secret plans. He would lay silent and alone, in the fetal position, for hours. Nothing in their relationship prepared Adriana Hevezi for this sort of behavior in her husband. Upset and in need of advice, she sought out a lieutenant colonel that other wives had recommended—a good man who could maintain privacy. Adriana confided that it might be best if she took the children and went home while her husband received needed medical attention in Okinawa.
But instead of honoring the confidence, the lieutenant colonel took Adriana’s concerns to the family advocacy office on base. The Hevezis were embroiled in a “family advocacy action” and Matt Hevezi was branded a “Level III abuser.”
In fact, Hevezi was never physically abusive. Adriana never made such a claim to the lieutenant colonel and later testified at her husband’s discharge hearing that “Matt never laid a hand on either the children or myself.” But the label stuck. Despite the struggle to bottle his emotional disarray, the suspicion of domestic abuse darkened the cloud over Matt Hevezi’s life and career.
And still Hevezi remained the most perplexed of all. Why was any of this happening? What was the trouble? How had he somehow lost himself?
A Very Dark Place
Adriana Hevezi returned to the States with the children while her husband stayed in Okinawa, doing the best he could but continuing to feel isolated and confused.
Back at Camp Pendleton in the summer of 2003, Matt Hevezi thought things might be looking up. He was still living apart from his family, but spending time with and enjoying them more than he had in months. He found a room to rent that was pleasant and comfortable. But underneath the positive exterior, Hevezi could not ignore the gnawing anxiety and persistent sadness that seemed to infect the core of his being. Late in 2003, the bottom fell out. “I became deeply depressed,” Hevezi said. “It was like sinking beneath the waves into a very dark place.”
Hevezi described the next few weeks of his life as “surreal. I would go home and crawl in my sleeping bag. I wasn’t eating, reading newspapers, watching TV—I didn’t want to do anything. It was a weird, ugly feeling, day after day. It was about three weeks into this when I overdosed on a muscle relaxant I’d been prescribed.”
His landlady found him. When she didn’t hear him one morning getting ready for work, she knocked on his door. No answer. She knocked louder. Still nothing. She let herself in to discover Hevezi unresponsive. A 911 call brought the ambulance that transported Hevezi to the Naval Hospital in San Diego. After the overdose was managed he was admitted to the psychiatric unit where a diagnosis of major depression was made. The causes were thought to be a genetic predisposition coupled with cumulative marital and deployment-related stresses. None of Matt Hevezi’s doctors asked if he had ever taken Lariam.
A Fellow Traveler
Hevezi himself knew nothing about Lariam until a Sunday in mid-February of 2005 when he happened across a newspaper article. Entitled “Worry Spreads Over GI Drug Side Effects,” the opening paragraph said that “some current or former troops claim that Lariam has provoked disturbing and dangerous behavior. The families of some troops blame the drug for the suicides of their loved ones.”
Hevezi found himself sitting straight up in his chair. The article told the story of an Army sergeant who became distraught after seeing the maimed body of an Iraqi soldier killed in a firefight. The sergeant, Georg-Andreas Pogany, later found himself consumed by an irrational but undeniable panic. Pogany, according to the account, felt disoriented and “not himself.” Yet when he sought help, he was sent home and charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy. “None of it made sense to Pogany until he learned more about the pills the Army gave him each week to prevent malaria,” the article said. “The drug’s manufacturer warned of rare but severe side effects, including paranoia and hallucinations.”
Hevezi read about the same symptoms that had dogged him for many months: fear, agitation, erratic behavior, intense dreams, flaring anger that receded to paralyzing depression, suicidal thoughts. But one passage in particular leaped out at him: Doctors at the Naval Hospital in San Diego had identified a disorder in the brain that appeared to disrupt balance in people who had taken Lariam. In other words, there was a valid suspicion on the part of military medical professionals that Lariam might exert a direct and damaging effect on the brain.
Hevezi stared at the article in disbelief. Not only was Lariam a regular fellow traveler in cases exactly like his, but research into the drug’s effects was going on at the very hospital where he had just spent three weeks. Could it be that his doctors had never heard about Lariam?
Hevezi learned from the Internet that Lariam research at the Naval Hospital in San Diego was led by a Navy doctor named Michael Hoffer. Hevezi arrived at Hoffer’s office, unannounced and without an appointment, on a Tuesday in late February 2005.
Hoffer was away, but a civilian was there, Dr. Derin Wester. “I asked Dr. Wester if he was part of the study,” Hevezi said. “He said he was. I asked him what he could tell me about Lariam. And he said he was not allowed to make any comments related to Lariam.” Receiving such a response after months of suffering and confusion angered Hevezi. “I got upset. I had tears in my eyes. I told him that I’m a Marine and I deserve help. I deserve answers.”
A secretary heard the men arguing, helped to defuse the situation, and Hevezi made an appointment to return for testing. But as he was leaving Wester’s office, he picked up a cell phone message from his sergeant major at Pendleton. The message informed him he was UA—absent without authorization. The sergeant major told him to report back to base immediately.
Hevezi, already upset by his encounter with Wester, felt he could not return to Pendleton if harassment awaited him. He went to the hospital’s mental health clinic. “I told them I was a repeat customer, and I needed help, right then and there.” A corpsman escorted Hevezi to the emergency room. From there he was admitted once again to the psychiatric unit.
This time around Hevezi raised the Lariam issue with his doctors, but “they all insisted there was nothing they could say. They said they didn’t know enough to comment. They told me to go to the hospital library and do my own research. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. They were my doctors. The whole thing was starting to seem like some sort of charade.”
Bizarre Psychological Breakdowns
It was the courageous work of UPI reporters Dan Olmstead and Mark Benjamin that established Lariam’s connection to bizarre psychological breakdowns in the military, including the 2002 Fort Bragg murder-suicides. Three Green Berets, all of whom had taken Lariam, returned from Afghanistan and degenerated into bouts of rage before killing their wives and themselves. (The Army discounted Lariam as a contributing factor.)
There were other incidents, including a 1993 episode when Canadian troops in Somalia bludgeoned a local teenager to death with lead pipes. The soldiers involved had taken Lariam. Australian troops posted to East Timor between 1999 and 2002 have complained of delusions, paranoia, and suicide attempts after using Lariam.
Army Master Sergeant James Coons committed suicide on July 4, 2003, at Walter Reed Army Hospital after being medically evacuated from Iraq after a period of odd behavior. Coons hallucinated the face of a dead soldier in a mirror before taking his own life.
A Marine killed one of his buddies in Iraq in the course of a minor disagreement, also in 2003. In the same year an Army Specialist, Dustin McGaugh, committed suicide in Iraq for no apparent reason. On March 14, 2004, CWO Bill Howell, an Army Special Forces A-Team member and veteran of Iraq who had taken Lariam, went into a crazed rage at his home in Colorado, threatened to kill his wife, and then followed her outside with a .357 pistol, shouting that she “was going to watch this” as he put the gun to his head and fired.
On Feb. 3, 2005, another Army Special Forces soldier at Fort Bragg killed himself after shooting his ex-wife and her boyfriend. He had taken Lariam in Afghanistan.
Dan Olmstead, in a recent analysis of the Lariam debacle, noted that 2003 was the year when Lariam was still widely used by all service branches. “The Army confirmed that as many as 11 of 24 suicides in 2003 were in units where Lariam could have been prescribed,” Olmstead wrote. “Coons’s death at Walter Reed has just been listed as an Iraq casualty, so the number of suicides in Iraq and Kuwait for 2003 now stands at 25.”
But in the next year, 2004, when the military sharply limited the use of Lariam, Olmstead noted that suicides fell by more than half, to 12. “So far this year ,” Olmstead wrote, “there have been just three confirmed suicides, with two investigations still pending. That is an annualized rate of 7.4 per 100,000—almost two-thirds less than the 2003 suicide rate of 18.8.”
Matt Hevezi’s testing at the Naval Hospital in San Diego was positive for the same balance abnormalities detected in 18 other service members who had used Lariam. He was advised by Dr. Hoffer that while the testing was not proof of Lariam toxicity, it was very suggestive. Referred on for further evaluation to Dr. Dana Grossman, a civilian psychologist working for the Navy, Hevezi was told that “while all the scientific evidence wasn’t yet in, if she had to offer an opinion in my case, the culprit was Lariam.”
Hevezi was cautiously optimistic as his discharge hearing approached. Information about the risks of Lariam was extensive. He had the support of several colleagues and officers. He had been invited to the Deployment Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed, an invitation that further legitimized his claims. His request for a formal Physical Evaluation Board had been granted, with a hearing scheduled for September 22, 2005, at the Washington Navy Yard.
Everything was in order for the Marine Corps to do the right thing by a man who had served with distinction—particularly one whose troubles seemed to be the result of a drug taken in the line of duty. But in the end, Hevezi’s discharge hearing was fraught with inequities.
The proceeding was held at a time his civilian attorneys were unavailable. Detailed medical records were not accepted into evidence, nor is any expert medical testimony recorded in the official report of the hearing board. Michael Hoffer, the Navy doctor who told Hevezi his problems were likely Lariam-induced (and went on public record about Lariam’s risks in 2004) refused to testify, raising suspicions that he had been ordered not to. Dr. Grossman, the civilian psychologist who also advised Hevezi his problems were probably Lariam related, was not called before the hearing. A newspaper reporter attempting to cover the story was barred from the public hearing. And there were, oddly enough, “brig chasers” sitting in the hearing room. The presence of these armed and solemn MPs suggested there was something dangerous or even criminal about Gunnery Sergeant Hevezi. Capt. John Boucher, Hevezi’s attorney, objected to the stunt as “designed to influence the decision of the board members. Calling this tactic offensive would be an enormous understatement.”
Capt. Boucher later termed the entire hearing “a miscarriage of justice” in a formal letter of deficiency directed to Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, Commanding General of Camp Pendleton. Boucher outlined multiple violations of due process, described “substantial errors” and “fatal flaws,” and asked Gen. Lehnert either to convene a new hearing or put aside the discharge altogether.
It is unclear if Gen. Lehnert ever saw that letter. If he did, he chose to do nothing. Matt Hevezi walked through the gates of Camp Pendleton as a civilian—confused, distraught, and disappointed—on September 16, 2005.
Major Side Effects
Lariam has been taken, according to Roche Pharmaceuticals, by 25 million people, both inside and out of the military. While Roche and DoD are both quick to point out that most of these individuals have had no problems with Lariam, they also acknowledge that a minority will experience neurological and psychological problems that range between uncomfortable and fatal.
But what kind of minority? The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research places “major” side effects of Lariam (including psychosis, delusions, homicide, and suicide) at 1 in 10,000. More “minor” side effects, such as depression, memory loss, or confusion, are thought to occur in 25 percent of people who take Lariam. These estimates would suggest that millions of people have suffered some form of Lariam toxicity, many thousands of them major side effects. Most of those cases were presumably suffered through in silence and with puzzlement, or diagnosed as more conventional mental health problems and treated as such. Or ended in inexplicable tragedy.
“From everything I have read,” Matt Hevezi said, “DoD knew about Lariam’s risk—and told nobody. No doctor or corpsman I ever encountered before San Diego knew anything about Lariam. They didn’t know, or said they didn’t know, about possible side effects. I don’t think they were even talking among themselves about Lariam. And I don’t think this implies lazy or irresponsible medical personnel. I think this is all about DoD’s inability to get the word out.”
Dr. Kilpatrick acknowledges the challenge. “We’re starting to educate military leadership—because commanders have to be advocates for their troops’ health, and not just in the short term but over the long term. If people return from a deployment and are experiencing medical symptoms, particularly things that seem mysterious, commanders need to encourage them to seek care. If symptoms develop in-theater, they should be encouraged to get medical personnel as well as get their commanders to pay attention. Our leadership needs to listen. Many of the people I have either talked to or read about who are dissatisfied [with their medical treatment in the military] were in situations where their leadership didn’t support them in getting the care they needed, or didn’t listen to the medical advice that was given. We have a program in place, five years in the making, to educate the operational leadership that force health protection must be on their radar.”
Meanwhile, Matt Hevezi reflects on what he called “three years of hell. And why? If I’d known about Lariam, all my problems could’ve been addressed as soon as they cropped up. My difficulties might’ve been entirely circumvented. What I’ve gone through, in the light of what I know now, seems senseless. It never needed to happen.”
Lost to the Service
The timing of Hevezi’s discharge is of special note. The Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) was slated to hear Hevezi’s case on September 22. Preserving this would have involved delaying his discharge only five days, seemingly a small gesture to offer a career Marine with nearly two decades of service. A PEB would have considered Lariam’s role in Hevezi’s problems, and might have been instrumental in activating his transfer to the Army’s Deployment Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed, a facility specializing in the investigation and care of unexplained illnesses. But with his discharge pushed through before the hearing date, due process was denied a loyal service member who had made it clear he was asking for help and believed he could still be of value to the Marine Corps and his country.
Landon Hutchens said that “the military often creates untenable situations for talented people with a great deal to offer. Matt Hevezi’s predicament is a case in point, because now his terrific skills, his enthusiasm, leadership, and value are all lost to the service. This is a man with unlimited potential in his field—and he wanted to continue to bring that potential to the Corps. He had some troubles along the way, yes. But nothing, in my opinion, that demanded the treatment he received.”
Options remain. Matt Hevezi can appeal his case to the Board for Correction of Naval Records, see his discharge status revised, restore his opportunity to receive disability benefits, and his rights to continuing care with the VA reinstated—and his name and reputation cleared.
But none of that undoes the damage inflicted, a fact of life that former Gunnery Sergeant Matthew Hevezi must now live with.
http://www.vva.org/TheVeteran/2005_11/f ... Lariam.htm
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