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Illich Park

Defence defends decision to trial drugs on soldiers

A NEW clinical trial involving Australian Defence Force personnel will determine if chloroquine is an effective prevention measure for COVID-19.

The trial has drawn a significant backlash with Herbert MP Phillip Thompson slamming the defence force for using Diggers as "guinea pigs".

A Department of Defence spokesman said the clinical trial was part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.

"There is a clear and urgent need for good clinical trials, however, the safety of our Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel is our key priority and participation in this trial is entirely voluntary," he said.

"Participants will be fully informed and subject to strict admittance criteria. Any decision for ADF personnel to participate in this trial will be the decision of the individual alone without pressure or influence from their chain of command."

However, in a letter Mr Thompson, who is also a veteran, wrote to Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds and Defence Personnel and Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester, expressing concern ADF members would feel pressured to be a part of the trial.



The department spokesman said Defence had implemented the recommendations from previous inquiries, "including the appointment of a participant advocate to provide a confidential mechanism for volunteers to seek advice and support".

"The addition of a participant advocate was a recommendation from the Senate inquiry into the use of mefloquine and tafenoquine," the spokesman said.

"Participation requires a deliberate action by participants to volunteer. They are required to access and read all online information, watch a video explaining the trial and make an appointment themselves in order to attend in person for evaluation."

The spokesman said participants would be carefully screened against a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria before they were allowed to take part in the trial.

"During the trial, volunteers will fill out daily questionnaires asking them to detail the current state of their health and wellbeing," he said.

"These will be closely monitored by scientists conducting the trial. Volunteers can remove themselves from the trial at any time for any reason."

The spokesman said the safety profile of chloroquine was well understood and more than a billion people used it.

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