Defence Committee MPs have warned that an anti-malarial drug issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to British troops should only be used as a ‘last resort’.

According to critics, Lariam, which was prescribed to at least 17,000 military personnel between April 2007 and March 2015, can cause psychological side-effects such as sleep deprivation, anxiety and severe depression.

A six-month inquiry by the Defence Committee found that “strong anecdotal evidence” suggests that the MoD prescribed Lariam to some troops without adhering to the manufacturer’s strict conditions.

The report also suggested that some military personnel would discard Lariam in knowledge of the drug’s potential psychological consequences, putting them at increased danger of contracting malaria in high-risk areas.

Lariam is one of a several anti-malarial drugs issued to military troops, however a senior military medic has advised ministers to prescribe alternative anti-malarial medication until it is proven to be safe.

Samantha Hemsley, national head of the serious injury and clinical negligence team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The inquiry into the safety of Lariam raises serious concerns about the MoD’s choice to prescribe a drug that is known to cause serious psychological side-effects.

“The general consensus is that Lariam should only be used in exceptional circumstances, however, it is extremely worrying to learn that despite the dangers of this drug being well-known, the MoD is reportedly failing to assess service personnel’s medical background before prescribing the drug.

“The MoD has a responsibility to safeguard personnel and must take on board the findings of the inquiry to urgently address the serious health implications posed by Lariam.”