Objective: To determine whether mefloquine, a quinoline antimalarial drug, affects psychomotor and actual driving performance when given in prophylactic regimen, alone or in combination with alcohol.
Methods: Forty male and female volunteers were randomly assigned in equal numbers to two groups, and were treated double-blind for one month with mefloquine and placebo. The medication was taken in a 250 mg dose on the evenings of Days 1, 2, 3, 8, 15, 22 and 29. Testing was done on Days 4, 23 and 30, the latter after repeated doses of alcohol sufficient to sustain a blood concentration of about 0.35 mg.ml-1. Two real driving tests were used to measure prolonged (1 h) road tracking and car following performance. Critical Flicker/Fusion Frequency (CFF), critical instability tracking and body sway were also measured in the laboratory.
Results: Mefloquine caused no significant impairment in any test at any time relative to placebo. It significantly improved road tracking performance on Day 4. A significant interaction between prior treatment and alcohol was found in the body sway test, as the alcohol-induced change was less after mefloquine than placebo. The sensitivity of the driving test and the CFF test were shown by the significant overall effect of alcohol which did not discriminate between the two prior treatments.
Conclusion: Mefloquine did not impair driving performance but rather improved it in the longer test, suggesting that the drug may possess psychostimulating properties.