Cambridge student, 19, who suffered psychotic reaction then leapt 5,000ft from plane over Madagascar had taken anti-malaria drug with ‘virtually undocumented’ side effects
- Coroner said Alana Cutland, 19, fell 5,000 feet to her death from plane last year
- She took anti-malaria drug doxycycline with ‘nearly undocumented’ side effects
- The student fell ill during her dream trip to Madagascar to research blue crab
- Alana cut the trip short to return home before plunging to her death in July 2019
The Cambridge University student who last year plunged 5,000 feet to her death from a plane over Madagascar had taken an anti-malaria drug with ‘virtually undocumented’ side effects, her grieving parents today said.
Alana Cutland, 19, had fallen ill during her dream trip to Madagascar to research rare blue crab and cut the trip short to return home, at her parents’ request.
The student, from Milton Keynes, broke open the plane’s door on July 25, 2019 and threw herself out after fighting off the pilot and fellow passenger Ruth Johnson, who had clung on to her legs above the East African island’s vast jungle.
A coroner said that Alana, who was at the end of her second year studying biological natural sciences, fell to her death on a flight between Anjajavay and Antananarivo.
Tom Osborne, senior coroner for Milton Keynes, has now asked for a review of the information sent out with anti-malaria drug doxycycline.
And The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that it is now gathering ‘further information’ on the antibiotic.
Alana Cutland, 19, from Milton Keynes, pictured with her parents Alison and Neil, who were bringing her home to Britain from Madagascar after she became unwell on her research trip
Alana Cutland, 19, had fallen ill during her dream trip to Madagascar to research rare blue crab and cut short the trip to return home, at her parents’ request
Authorities shared this photo, a recreation of Ruth Johnson and the pilot’s attempts to save Alana and stop her from jumping out. She fell from the Cessna-style light aircraft while it was above the east African country, about ten minutes after take-off
The student, from Milton Keynes, broke open the plane’s door on July 25, 2019 and threw herself out after fighting off the pilot and fellow passenger Ruth Johnson
Mr Osborne said she ‘suffered a psychotic/delirium event that led to her behaviour and death’, adding it was ‘quite apparent’ the reaction was caused by the drug.
But in a shock revelation, he warned that there was ‘nothing on the drug information leaflet that either highlights or mentions this possibility’.
‘If she or her parents have been aware of this possible side-effect they may have been able to intervene earlier to avoid her death,’ Mr Osborne added.
In a statement, her parents Neil and Alison Cutland said it was ‘tragic’ that Alana’s death was ‘essentially caused by the side effects of doxycycline’.
‘We realise that such drugs have an important role to play, but it shocked us to discover that such a severe side effect could be virtually undocumented,’ they said.
In very rare cases some anti-malaria drugs can cause paranoia, depression, hallucinations and even suicidal thoughts.
Doxycycline, which is prescribed to treat bacterial infections, has been authorised as an anti-malaria drug for more than 50 years.
Mr and Mrs Cutland, both 64, told the BBC that they have been ‘surrounded by the love and support of countless people’ since their daughter’s death.
The MHRA said they had reviewed the ‘suspected association between doxycycline and psychotic disorder’ after the coroner’s report and work was ‘continuing’.
Alana had been due to stay on Madagascar for six weeks, but cut it short after just eight days following the conversations with her parents.
The family rented a small plane to take her from a lodge on the north of the island to Madagascar’s Ivato Antananarivo international airport where she would have flown to Paris and then on to London, according to the Midi-Madagasikara newspaper.
But five minutes after take-off she jumped.
Alana and her parents had several intense and agitated phone calls in the days and hours leading up to her death and she was suffering from ‘stress’ and ‘paranoia’, reports on the island have claimed.
Mr and Mrs Cutland convinced researcher Ruth Johnson, 51, to accompany her on the five-seat Cessna-type aircraft because they were worried about Alana.
Alana broke open the door and fought with Ms Johnson and the pilot as they tried to drag her back into the cabin, Madagascar police chief Nomenjahary has said.
Mr Nomenjahary said the student had suffered five ‘paranoia attacks’ while on the ‘failed’ research trip to see rare Madagascan crustaceans.
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