Lariam (generic name Mefloquine) is a type of antimalarial used in the prevention and treatment of certain types of malaria.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease of the plasmodium family. These plasmodiums are transferred to the blood via mosquito bites, where they make their way to the liver and reproduce before being released back into the blood. If left undiagnosed or untreated, malaria can be fatal.
Lariam contains the active ingredient mefloquine, which works by attacking the parasites after they have passed through the liver into the blood.
Lariam is only effective in parts of the world where plasmodium falciparum is not present. It is vital that you speak with a doctor about which type of antimalarial medication is suitable for your trip. Furthermore, no antimalarial medication is 100% effective, so it is important to take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes while travelling within a malaria zone.
Lariam can provide protection against malaria in areas of the world where plasmodium falciparum (the most prevalent and dangerous strain of malaria) is not present, such as South America and much of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is often taken in combination with Proguanil to provide a higher level of protection.
The active ingredient in Lariam is mefloquine.
The inactive ingredients in Lariam are poloxamer, microcrystalline cellulose, lactose monohydrate, maize starch, crospovidone, ammonium calcium alginate, talc, and magnesium stearate.
Please Note: Different brands of Mefloquine (generic Lariam) can contain different inactive ingredients.
Always take Lariam as instructed by a doctor. You should take your first dose of Lariam 10 days in advance of your arrival in a malaria zone, and you second dose 3 days in advance. After this, take one tablet a week, always on the same day, for the duration of your trip and for an additional 4 weeks following your return. You should take Lariam for at least 6 weeks, depending on the duration of your trip. Make sure to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites during you travels, as no antimalarial is 100% effective.
Lariam is not recommended for use in children under 3 months of age. For children aged 3 months - 5 years, the dosage is ¼ tablet taken once a week. Children aged 6 - 8 should take ½ tablet once a week, and ¾ tablet for ages 9 - 14. The recommended dose for adults is 1 tablet taken once a week.
Unlike some other antimalarials, Lariam is suitable for use in children over the age of 3 months. Children will need to take a lower dose than adults, and you should speak to your doctor for advice before beginning the course of treatment.
Like all medications, Lariam can cause side effects in some people. If you experience any of the following serious side effects, stop taking this medication and consult a doctor immediately:
Less serious side effects may affect up to 1 in 10 people and include:
The following side effects have also been reported, although their frequency cannot be estimated:
If you experience any of the above side effects, consult your doctor for advice.
Do NOT take Lariam if you have or have ever had:
Before taking Lariam, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any of the following:
Before taking Lariam, tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications, including those bought over the counter without a prescription. In particular, tell your doctor if you are taking:
The most common side effect of Lariam is sleeping problems (affects around 1 in 10 people), including sleepiness, insomnia or bad dreams. Speak to your doctor for advice if these symptoms persist. It may be that a different type of antimalaria is better suited to you.
Lariam has been known to cause mental problems in a small amount of people. If you experience feelings of depression or anxiety while taking Lariam, stop taking it immediately and consult your doctor.
It is not normally recommended to take this medication while pregnant, and pregnant women are usually advised against travelling to malaria zones. Speak to your doctor before taking Lariam if you are pregnant. Lariam should not be taken while breastfeeding.
You can drink alcohol whilst taking Lariam, although you are advised to take caution and drink only in moderation. In combination with Lariam, alcohol can cause dizziness or drowsiness.
There are several different types of antimalarial available in the UK. The type of malarial you need is often dependent on your destination and the type of malaria known to be prevalent there. Click here to find out which type of antimalarial you need for your travels.
The benefits of Lariam and Chloroquine are that they are only taken once a week and are suitable in pregnant women of all trimesters. However, since they both need to be started well in advance of traveling and for 4 weeks after, they are best suited to prolonged trips.
Malarone is a popular option as it is suitable for most areas where malaria is known to be prevalent and protects against plasmodium falciparum. It is a more expensive option, but tends to present less side effects and, since it only needs to be started 2 days prior to travelling, is suitable for short trips abroad.
Doxycycline is a cheaper alternative, although it has more known side effects such as sensitivity to sunlight, which can be problematic for some travellers. It is an antibiotic that acts as a malaria preventative in some parts of the world.
While antimalarials provide a good level of protection against malaria, it is vital to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place. Make sure to wear insect repellent (preferably containing 50% DEET or higher), particularly in the evenings and at night. You can buy mosquito repellent sprays, humidifiers and coils for your accommodation, as well as nets impregnated with repellant to hang over your bed at night. Where possible, avoid staying in accomodation that is close to stagnant water sources, such as lakes or ponds, and keep your skin covered up in the evenings. For more tips on mosquito avoidance, click here.
Because Lariam does not protect against plasmodium falciparum, it is not often used to prevent malaria on its own. It can be used to provide a measure of protection in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and much of Asia.
Antimalarial medication is only available on the NHS in exceptional circumstances. Lariam cannot be accessed through the NHS for travel purposes, and instead should be purchased from a doctor on a private prescription.
You will need to start taking Lariam 10 days before your arrival in a malaria zone, so it is important to buy it well in advance of your trip.