TAC hails court victory over Rath and Manto

Thanks to this blog post for highlighting this piece of good news: TAC hails court victory over Rath, Manto.

The Cape High Court ruling that vitamin entrepreneur Matthias Rath was acting illegally was a victory for the rule of law and for science in medicine, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said on Friday.

In a ruling handed down on Friday morning, Judge Dumasini Zondi barred Rath from claiming his product, VitaCell, was a treatment for Aids, and declared that the clinical trials he had been conducting in black townships were unlawful.

Zondi also said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her department had a duty to investigate Rath’s activities.

I feel another zapiro coming :wink:

Of course Manto will “spin” her way out of this as well but all in all a rare victory over woo-woo.

Didn’t want to create another topic for this but thought it might be of interest that Matthias Rath has pulled out of his legal case against Ben Goldacre from the Bad Science blog.

That is good news!

Ben Goldacre: The food supplement industry’s stifling of debate is far from democratic

Matthias Rath today pulled out of a legal case against the Guardian which has cost the organisation £500,000 to defend. I am proud that we fought it. Rath is an example of the worst excesses of the alternative therapy industry; UK nutritionists make foolish claims on poor evidence – they can make your child a genius with fish oils, or prevent heart attacks in the distant future – but Rath transplanted these practices into the world of HIV/Aids, where evidence really matters.

The potential consequences of his actions are outrageous, but he is by no means untypical. This sector has engineered a beneficent public image for itself, a warm and friendly cottage industry; but that fantasy is not borne out by the facts.

The food supplement pill industry is phenomenally powerful, extremely lucrative and incredibly influential, but it has shown itself to be philosophically and commercially incapable of critical self-appraisal. Rath is its product. It is inconceivable that any individual within that industry would be brave enough to stand up and criticise his activities – and for that, more than anything else, it should be condemned.

Matthias Rath: Fall of the doctor who said his vitamins would cure Aids

Matthias Rath, the vitamin campaigner accused of endangering thousands of lives in South Africa by promoting his pills while denouncing conventional medicines as toxic and dangerous, has dropped a year-long libel action against the Guardian and been ordered to pay costs.

Rath sued over three Guardian articles that condemned his promotional activities among Aids sufferers in South African townships.

A qualified doctor who is thought to have made millions selling nutritional supplements around the globe through his website empire, Rath claimed his pills could reverse the course of Aids and distributed them free in South Africa, where campaigners, who have won a hard-fought battle to persuade the government to roll out free Aids drugs to keep millions alive, believe Rath’s activities led to deaths.

Tomorrow’s 3rd Degree programme on etv will feature an investigation into the claims of assorted quacks and self-styled healers with particular emphasis on those related to HIV/AIDS. Apparently, some of the “cures” have been subjected to proper laboratory tests and the results will be reported on. Maybe Manto and her followers will watch and pay attention but somehow I doubt it.


Why am I not feeling optimistic about this report? Still, maybe they feel it controversial enough to be newsworthy and actually report the issues accurately…
Will probably not be able to watch tonight - do please report back for anyone that missed it :wink:

The 3rd Degree report was a thing of beauty that would evoke the respect and gratitude of any sceptic. It was titled “Quack Alert” and didn’t pull any punches in labelling various snake oil scammers as charlatans. The focus was entirely on claimed cures and treatments for HIV/AIDS. From:—

  • a scurrilous syndicate of about 20 self-styled “doctors” and “healers” moving around and dispensing useless homebrewed concoctions in the Western Cape who took as much as R214,000-00 off one HIV victim,
  • someone named Abrie Vlok and his partner Dr Saibu who push ozone as a miracle cure, in contravention of the ban against its use elsewhere in the world,
  • one Morokane Choma who punts a Chinese system called CERAGEM in Johannesburg, an infrared/massage device that allegedly aligns the spine and improves circulation,
  • a Prof. Ngu in Durban who claims to have developed a vaccine against HIV infection and to have cured 23 people of AIDS (oddly enough, none of whom was prepared to speak up),
  • Colin Katz, the head of Nature’s Health Products (mentioned here), a product-based pyramid marketing setup that specialises in health supplements which carry slippery marketing-speak that suggests HIV/AIDS treatment, especially potentially harmful aloe-based preparations, right through to
  • an assortment of off-the-shelf and custom “immune boosters”
    were mercilessly criticised and exposed as useless wastes of money and time by a range of medical experts. The point was made several times that ARVs are the only scientifically proven treatment for HIV/AIDS. Thabo Mbeki and Manto were also identified as the chief culprits who, through their denialist, unscientific and unsustainable approach to the HIV/AIDS question, in effect not only allowed but even encouraged the emergence of these con-artists. At the end of the program, Debora Patta reported that three of the health supplement manufacturers had stated that they would remove the claims from their packaging and advertising that suggested their products treated or cured HIV/AIDS. While this is obviously a decent thing to do, one must ask why these people first need to be exposed on national TV before they manage to grow themselves a conscience.

The only remaining question in our minds is how it is possible that 3rd Degree can get it so right when people’s health is at stake, but so unutterably wrong when someone like Danie Krügel comes along with his wild stories. The principle, after all, is exactly the same. Maybe they took the criticism that was levelled at Carte Blanche and Ruda Landman to heart. Could this mark the beginning of responsible, as opposed to sensationalist, science reporting?

We sure hope so.