January 31, 2005

Malaria Medicine Thoughts

As usual, I wish StrategyPage had permalinks. They don't:

January 26, 2005: The U.S. Army has found that troops going to countries where malaria is common, are not taking the medicines meant to prevent them from coming down with the disease. In one study, a battalion of U.S. Army Rangers, after spending four months in Afghanistan, had 5.2 percent of the troops coming down with malaria. This was because only 52 percent of the troops took the medicine (to prevent them from getting malaria) while they were in Afghanistan, and only 41 percent continued taking the meds when they got back (to make sure no one developed a case). Worse yet, only 29 percent of the troops used insect repellant while in Afghanistan. On the bright side, the strain of malaria in Afghanistan is not fatal. But it can really knock you on your butt if you come down with it. Malaria is the all time killer disease, although rarely the number one cause of death. But each year, it kills several million people, and debilitates many more. As far back as World War II, there were problems with getting the troops to take their anti-malaria medicine. If the local strain of malaria was not particularly nasty, the troops had no ever-present incentive to take their meds. Itís an old problem, and the only solution that works is some kind of medicine that need only be taken once.

Why can't the guys who invented Norplant come up with a similar version that dispenses anti-malarial medicine? You get a small, under the skin, medicine distribution of all the pills you'd normally have to supply through your logistical tail to the front lines. As long as the medicine lasts longer than your deployment, you can either get topped off or have the delivery system popped out when you get back home.

If it's small, sturdy, and non-toxic if it releases everything at once, the surgical costs are likely to be outweighed by the cost of malaria. Then again, why not simply mandate it for soldiers who are caught not taking their meds?

Posted by TMLutas at January 31, 2005 01:38 AM