Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

TAC issues ultimatum over entrepreneur (Matthias Rath)

Cape Times, April 19 2005

TAC issues ultimatum over entrepreneur

The Treatment Action Campaign is to take legal action against the Medicines Control Council (MCC) if it does not act against controversial vitamin entrepreneur Matthias Rath.

The TAC announced this at a press conference on Monday at which it was joined by Cosatu and the South African Medical Association.

"If the MCC and (Health Professions Council of South Africa) fail to close down Rath's medical activities by April 27, TAC will proceed with further litigation to do so," the TAC said in a statement.

TAC said it had evidence that Rath was running unregistered medical practises in Cape Town's townships and was conducting "unauthorised, unethical and dangerous" experiments on people with HIV.

It said he was able to act with impunity because of a government-created environment "that sanctions Aids denialism and quackery".

For several months the Rath Foundation had been running advertisements in community newspapers, handing out flyers and putting up posters that accused the TAC of receiving funding from drug companies to "promote the use of antiretrovirals".

The Rath Health Foundation said in reaction that it was surprised that organisations and individuals whose economic future "depends on the promotion of synthetic pharmaceutical drugs" should seek to discredit what it said were findings that vitamins could be of great benefit to people with HIV/Aids.

"In lobbying against natural effective therapies, the TAC is clearly less concerned with the lives and health of the people of South Africa than with keeping its multimillion-rand funding from pharmaceutical front organisations," the foundation said on Monday in a statement issued from its Cape Town office.

"Vitamins are food, not synthetic pharmaceutical drugs.

"It is amazing that the TAC and other drug-promoting groups should seek to stop the use of micro nutrients by malnourished people."

TAC has asked the Cape High Court for an urgent order to stop Rath and the foundation from claiming the TAC is a front for the pharmaceutical industry and funded by drug companies.

This application is to be heard on April 26.

In papers filed for the hearing, the TAC says the foundation claims its multivitamin products are effective in the treatment or prevention of Aids and that it has been attacking those who promote antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

Last month the Advertising Standards Authority, responding to a TAC complaint, ruled that similar claims made by the foundation in newspaper advertisements were unsubstantiated.

TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat told the media briefing that TAC lawyers had written several letters to the MCC.

"We are awaiting a formal response, a written response, from the MCC. We want a full debate on medicines. This is criminality in the service of selling products. And we want the MCC and the Health Professions Council of South Africa to do their jobs, otherwise we will force them to do their jobs through the courts."

The TAC's Khayelitsha district organiser, Mandla Majola, said he was concerned that people were becoming confused about ARVs in the face of the publicity against them.

Pamphlets had been distributed warning pregnant women they risked having deformed babies if they took ARVs, he said.

"Because of the campaign, pregnant women who are taking the drugs are concerned that they will give birth to deformed babies."

Letitia Siyamdani, of Doctors Without Borders, said posters and pamphlets had been distributed close to treatment centres in townships to confuse patients.

The South African Medical Association wholeheartedly supported the TAC's actions, a spokesperson, Mark Sonderup, said.

The registrar of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, Boyce Mkhize, was not immediately available for comment. The council is a statutory body, established to "set and maintain excellent standards of ethical and professional practise". - Sapa and staff writers