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Gulf War Syndrome and Pyridostigmine Bromide


Pyridostigmine bromide (PB), the chemical name for Mestinon, was given to Gulf War service members as a preventative measure against possible soman (nerve gas) attack in the First Gulf War. Soman is the chemical agent believed to be used against the Iranians by the Iraqis, and military authorities were concerned about its possible use against the United States armed forces.

Service members on the ground were given blister packs of PB to take on their own. Medical and/or military documentation was not taken, so it is unknown just how many soldiers ingested PB and at what levels. Shortly after the Gulf War, many of these solders became ill.

“Gulf War Veterans Medically Unexplained Illnesses” — This is the VA’s wording for what most people know as Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). This complicated composite of medical symptoms manifests itself in almost as many ways as there are patients, which number approximately 250,000 as of 2010.

Whether or not there is a connection between PB and GWS is disputed. The VA, based on studies such as the one carried on at the Midwest Research Institute, does not believe there is a clear and direct connection between the two. Dr. Beatrice Golomb, professor at the University of California, San Diego, disagrees with the VA. Her study, undertaken in conjunction with other medical researchers, “thoroughly, conclusively shows that this class of chemicals actually are a cause of illness in Gulf War veterans.” Either way, the VA will treat these unexplained illnesses “related to Gulf War Service without regard to cause.”

If you have any of these illnesses listed here and also served in the First Gulf War, you may be eligible for treatment and other disability benefits from the VA. The VA has made the decision that service members do not need to prove the link between their symptoms and their service as long as they meet certain criteria that clearly link the service member to their deployment in the First Gulf War and that their symptoms did not appear before their deployment or after December 31st, 2016. The symptoms must also cause a minimum of a 10% disability. Do not wait; if you meet these conditions, contact the VA immediately to receive assistance in maintaining your health and well being.

In addition, Dr. Golomb is conducting additional studies regarding the efficacy of Coenzyme Q10 in treating Gulf War Syndrome symptoms. If you are in the San Diego, California area and were deployed to the Persian Gulf theater sometime from 1990 to 1991, learn more about the study and how you can be a participant.

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