Matthias Rath and his foundation had never claimed their vitamin products were a cure for HIV/Aids, Rath’s advocate told the Cape High Court on Thursday.
The court is hearing a bid by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the South African Medical Association for a court order forcing the government to halt Rath’s distribution of multivitamins in black townships; to silence his claims that they can reverse the course of Aids; and to stop unauthorised clinical trials.
”We are not claiming it’s a cure,” Rath’s advocate, Dumisa Ntsebeza, told the court. ”We would like to make very clear, that has never been the claim.”
Rath’s position, he said, is that in the absence of an effective cure or a vaccine, and in the face of the extreme toxicity of antiretrovirals, multivitamins are an effective and affordable way to ”halt the progression and even reverse the symptoms” of Aids.
Ntsebeza said it is much the same thing to say that vitamins and micronutrients delay Aids, as the TAC has conceded, or that they reverse it, and one should not quibble about the difference.
However, there is scientific evidence, published in reputable, peer-reviewed international journals, that they can, in fact, reverse the course of the disease. It is not the court’s job to question this research.
At one point, Ntsebeza referred to administering multivitamins to ”our patients”.
However, elsewhere in his argument he said that Rath’s only involvement in the affair was the donation of vitamins to the South African National Civics Organisation, which in turn ran a community nutrition programme using those donations.
It would be a sad day were the court to interdict this programme, Ntsebeza told Judge Dumisani Zondi.
On Wednesday, Geoff Budlender, advocate for the TAC, told the court that the Department of Health had shown a decided lack of enthusiasm for investigating the activities of Rath.
”The government has failed completely in its constitutional and statutory duties to protect the health of the public,” he said.
Budlender said Rath’s vitamins fall under the definition of medicines, and should be registered. The department had failed completely in its duty to protect the health of the public by investigating the distribution of the product and the trials.
However, on Thursday Ntsebeza said that Rath had never sold a single bottle of his products in South Africa, and that the products could not be classed as medicines as the TAC claimed. — Sapa