Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Carl Herndl, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Staggers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ambar Basu, Ph.D.


pharmaceuticals, risk communication, technical communication


The Walter Reed Institute of Army Research developed the antimalarial drug mefloquine then collaborated with Hoffman-La Roche to produce the drug under its brand name "Lariam," after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved licensure in 1989. For over twenty years, the Army used this pill as its "drug of choice" for soldiers deployed to endemic regions until 2009, and in 2013 the Food and Drug Administration warned that the drug's neurotoxic effects could be lasting, if not permanent. The sociopolitical exigence of developing a new biochemical antimalarial drug rushed the development and licensure processes, and the modern craving for certainty in the New Drug Application (NDA) process led to a biomedical disaster-- economically, politically, and interpersonally. In this paper, I present the factors contributing to uncertainty and heightened exigence in the development of what I call "mef-Lariam" in a nod to Latourian hybridization. By tracing the history of the drug's development process, I argue that definitional stasis around the NDA genre's terms safe and effective undergird a dangerous ontological orientation to medicine that privileges an ethic of expediency. Finally, I argue that actor-network theory can help medical rhetors apply a more ethical, multiple view of medical research that could prevent the future licensure of toxic pharmaceuticals.