Background: Mefloquine is commonly prescribed to prevent malaria in travellers, and has replaced other drugs because Plasmodium falciparum is commonly resistant to them. However, mefloquine may be associated with neuropsychiatric harmful effects. Objectives: To assess the effects of mefloquine in adult travellers compared to other regimens in relation to episodes of malaria, withdrawal from prophylaxis, and adverse events. Study selection criteria: Randomised trials comparing mefloquine with other standard prophylaxis or placebo in non-immune adult travellers, and in non-travelling volunteers. For adverse events, any published case reports were collected. Data collection and analysis: We independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. Adverse events from observational studies were categorised by the study type. We also contacted study authors. Main results: We included 10 trials involving 2750 non-immune adult participants. Five of these were field trials, and of these all were in mainly male soldiers. One trial comparing mefloquine with placebo showed mefloquine prevented malaria episodes in an area of drug resistance (Peto odds ratio 0.04, 95% confidence interval 0.02 to 0.08). Withdrawals in the mefloquine group were consistently higher in four placebo controlled trials (odds ratio 3.56, 95% confidence interval 1.67 to 7.60). In five trials comparing mefloquine with other chemoprophylaxis, no difference in tolerability was detected. We found 516 published case reports of mefloquine adverse effects. 63 per cent of these published reports involved tourists and business travellers. There were four fatalities attributed to mefloquine. Conclusions: Mefloquine prevents malaria, but has adverse effects that limit its acceptability . There is evidence from non-randomised studies that mefloquine has potentially harmful effects in tourists and business travellers, and its use needs to be carefully balanced against this. Trials of comparative effects of antimalarial prophylaxis should include episodes of malaria and withdrawal from prophylaxis as outcomes.
Update: The Editor withdrew this review as of Issue 1, 2008. This review is being updated and replaced following the publication of a new protocol: Jacquerioz FA, Croft AM, Bergel E. Drugs for preventing malaria in travellers. (Protocol) Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD006491. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006491. It will remain withdrawn when the new review is published.
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000138. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000138.