In a strongly worded letter to the province’s health minister Pierre Uys the 199 health professionals warned that the activities of Dr Rath Health Foundation were ‘the largest challenges our health services have ever been confronted with’. The signatories included doctors, professors of medicine, nurses, pharmacists, counsellors, clerks and laboratory workers from over 30 health facilities, spanning clinics and the three academic hospitals.
Rath and his foundation, which includes agents from the South African National Civics Organisation, has since the beginning of the year been promoting high doses of multi-vitamins as an alternative to anti-retroviral drugs which they describe as toxic.
Some patients have told how they were taken to ‘clinics’, asked to undress, photographed and given a supply of the Rath vitamins as part of a ‘clinical trial’.
Other patients have told how they had been confused by the mixed messages into defaulting on their antiretroviral medicine only to end up in hospital with opportunistic infections.
The letter to Uys cautioned that for patients with advance HIV disease, stopping antiretroviral medicine, even for a few weeks, could be the difference between life and death.
Spokesperson for the concerned group, Dr Andrew Boulle said by releasing the letter they hoped that Government would realize the seriousness of the situation as well as the lebel of frustration felt by health workers regarding the issue.
‘It is a matter of life and death, we have already taken far too long to act.’
Boulle said it was particularly tragic for health professionals that the Dr Rath Health Foundation was primarily active in the Western Cape, a province which up to now had been a leader in providing HIV-related interventions.
He said although Uys had agreed to meet with representatives of the group today (Thursday), his office had made it clear that they did not see it as a Provincial responsibility to take action against the Dr Rath Health Foundation.
Uys’ office has in the past declined to comment on the activities of the Foundation.
The concerned group’s letter to Uys outlines immediate actions that can be taken against the Dr Rath Health Foundation for the following contraventions:
- The conduct of human clinical trials without application to and authorisation from the Medicines Control Council as required by the Medicines and Related Substances Act regulations. The foundation has also not received approval from an appropriate ethics committee.
- The sale of unregistered medicines which are subject to registration, in contravention of the Medicines Act. (In terms of the Act ‘sell’ includes the distribution of medicines without financial reward).
- Publishing and distributing false advertisements concerning medicines, in contravention of the Medicines Act.
In a statement released yesterday Uys said he had agreed to meet with the group this week to discuss their concerns and ‘explain to them that the Medicines Control Council is already conducting an investigation into the foundation’.
Uys said this was personally confirmed to him by MCC registrar Dr Humphrey Zokufa adding that a report was expected in three weeks’ time.
Rath has in the past used advertisements in newspapers to launch aggressive condemnations in the media against pro-treatment groups such as the Treatment Action Campaign and Medecins Sans Frontieres.
The Advertising Standards Authority has on more than one occasion barred Rath from placing such misleading advertisements.
In a newspaper distributed by The Dr Rath Foundation, it claims to have the support of the Health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the Government.
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