In a ground-breaking ruling, Cape High Court Judge Dumisani Zondi ruled that Rath’s clinical trials using multivitamins in the treatment of AIDS were unlawful and must stop. The judgement also prohibits Rath from publishing any material that promotes the medicinal effects of his flagship product, Vita Cell, for people living with AIDS until it has been reviewed by the Medicines Control Council. The ruling also ordered Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the Health Director-General Thami Mseleku, to take reasonable steps to prevent Rath and his foundation from conducting further trials. The Health Department was also instructed to investigate Rath’s activities and to take action following the investigation.
The Treatment Action Campaign took Rath to court and cited the Department of Health as one of the respondents. The Department had failed to act against Rath, who had set up his operation in Western Cape townships as an alternative to the government’s own HIV and AIDS care and treatment programme, which includes antiretroviral therapy.
A lack of medicines regulation policy in South Africa has led to the creation of an environment where quacks, charlatans and crooks are able to sell their unregistered products and cause harm, including the deaths of those who fall prey to their charms. The Minister of Health’s own flirtation with people like Dr Matthias Rath and former nurse Tine van der Maas, who promotes a diet of beetroot, garlic and olive oil has helped boost this climate that takes advantage of the ill and desperate.