[BPSDB]The obnoxious Matthias Rath has withdrawn his libel case against Ben Goldacre and the Guardian newspaper. See here. Like many purveyors of quack remedies, he had resorted to Britain’s repressive libel laws to silence justified criticism. In this case it has blown up spectacularly in his face.
A large quantity of evidence had been collected by Ben and the Guardian which pointed to the fact that people with HIV had been persuaded to stop using antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and instead use Rath’s vitamin and mineral nostrums. As a result people have died. We may never know how many.
Rath’s empire is worldwide despite the pretensions of people such as he to be some sort of cottage industry but he prospered particularly in South Africa because the AIDS denialism of President Thabo Mbeki and his Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang resulted in effective drugs being unavailable – leaving the field wide open to quacks and charlatans. Even without Government denialism, ignorance allows quackery to roam free. As I have mentioned before, homeopaths are acting out their healing fantasies in Botswana.
Had the case gone ahead, the court would have heard about Rath’s associate Anthony Brink’s attempt to have Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign indicted for genocide – because of TAC’s campaign for ARVs to be available to all. I doubt Brink ever believed the genocide case was winnable but while it was pending it would help reinforce beliefs about the alleged toxicity and lethality of ARVs.
This attitude exists outside of South Africa, of course. Our very own Patrick Holford has claimed that vitamin C is more effective in treating HIV than ARVs, on the basis of a laboratory-bench experiment wherein vitamin C was squirted onto viruses in a petri dish. And the CAMmers call scientists “reductionist”!
The CAM brigade are fond of anecdotes – so here is mine:
The South African townships are being decimated by AIDS. People are bedridden or dead when they should be at the most productive. Orphans are raised by their grandparents or older siblings. Funerals are a daily event. My sister-in-law has died of this disease. And people like Rath see their suffering as an opportunity to make money.
The ongoing libel case had forced Ben Goldacre and Fourth Estate to remove the section on Rath’s activities from his book but now he is free to write about them – and apparantly has so much material that he can write a whole book on Rath and AIDS superstitions. Isn’t that nice?