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).

Friday, May 13, 2005

Vitamin guru to face wrath of TAC in court (Matthias Rath)

Posted to the web on: 13 May 2005

Vitamin guru to face wrath of TAC in court

Tamar Kahn

Science and Health Editor

CAPE TOWN — The politics of HIV/AIDS treatment take centre stage at the Cape High Court today, when the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) argues to stop vitamin salesman Matthias Rath claiming it is a front for the pharmaceutical industry.

The TAC’s advocate, Geoff Budlender, will argue before a full bench of the court that Rath’s allegations are defamatory, damaging to TAC’s reputation, and endanger the lives of its members.

Rath’s remarks paint TAC members and staff as “people who poison and kill people living with HIV/AIDS” on behalf of commercial interests such as pharmaceutical companies, say TAC’s court papers.

TAC is seeking an interim order to halt Rath’s attack on their reputation, ahead of a pending defamation suit. The foundation has attacked TAC for promoting drugs that “can kill people”, and describe it as the “running dogs of the drug cartel in SA”.

Rath has recently run a series of advertisements in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, claiming that vitamins alone can cure AIDS and that antiretroviral medicines, used to slow the progression of HIV, are toxic.

Rath’s advocate, John van der Berg, will argue that he is entitled to criticise TAC under a constitutional right to freedom of expression. He will also counter TAC’s assertion that Rath’s comments are defamatory, and that they have suffered harm as a result.

“It is difficult to conceive how a very public corporation such as (TAC), which not only courts the limelight, but is not averse to seeking public confrontation, can claim to fear irreparable harm when it is criticised in robust … terms,” Van der Berg argues in court papers.

TAC advocates will not argue about the efficacy of antiretroviral medicines, but will confine their complaint to Rath’s alleged attack on the activists’ reputation.

TAC chairman Zackie Achmat disputed in court papers Rath’s allegation that the organisation took money from drug companies.

TAC had stopped taking funds from a European lobby group because it believed the group’s position “was too similar to that of the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.