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14 Sep 2008 16:38
Vitamin entreprenur Matthias Rath has dropped a million-pound libel claim against the Guardian over his activities in townships in South Africa.
Rath sued over a series of articles by columnist Ben Goldacre that condemned Rath’s claim that his pills were preferable to antiretroviral drugs, and that they could reverse the course of HIV/Aids.
South Africa, said Goldacre in one of the articles, was a haven for Aids denialism, and was afflicted by “a madness that has let perhaps hundreds of thousands of people die unnecessarily”.
The Guardian said that following the dropping of the case, the High Court had ordered Rath to pay initial costs of just under a quarter of a million pounds.
Its editor, Alan Rusbridger, said: “We are very glad that Rath has dropped his libel action, doubtless designed to discourage other journalists—in Britain and abroad—from looking too closely at his
dubious claims and methods.”
Reacting on his website to the news, Goldacre, a medical doctor, said Rath had been promoting his pills in a country “where hundreds of thousands die every year from Aids under an HIV denialist president and the population is ripe for miracle cures”.
“This libel case has drawn on for over a year, with the writ hanging both in my toilet, and over my head.
“I will probably now write a swift book on Rath and South Africa, as a way to make all the fascinating extra information I’ve had to dredge through useful to others, and to try and recoup something so that my time was not wasted.
“It will be meticulously well referenced and carefully written.
I genuinely believe that the madness of the South African government’s approach to Aids is one of the most important stories of our time.”
In June this year, following an application brought by TAC, the Cape High Court barred Rath from claiming his product VitaCell was a treatment for HIV/Aids, and declared that the clinical trials he had been conducting in townships were unlawful.
Judge Dumisani Zondi also said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her department had a duty to investigate Rath’s activities.
The minister, cited as a co-respondent, opposed the application.
Rath has also claimed that antiretrovirals are toxic, and that the apartheid regime was part of a plot by the pharmaceutical industry to “conquer and control the entire African continent”.
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