Profile Of A Quack: Matthias Rath

Matthias Rath is a German physician.  At least he used to be.  As far as I’m concerned, he lost the privilege to call himself a doctor long ago.  He is, instead, a snake oil salesman, ignoring any and all scientific evidence that invalidates his claims and would hurt his bottom line.

Rath made his fortune as a vitamin entrepreneur.  Through his website, he claims to have discovered the cause to a myriad of chronic and incurable diseases, ranging from atherosclerosis and hypertension to metastatic cancer.  And, lucky us, the very vitamin pills he sells will cure you of that nasty lymphoma.  Rath’s claims (lies) have led many people to abandon genuine medical treatment in exchange for his magic pills.  Many have died.  These actions are enough to earn Rath a lifetime of contempt, but it is his claims and actions concerning the treatment of AIDS that have been the most damaging.

Rath claims the discovery of cellular medicine as the monumental achievement of his career.  He defines cellular medicine as ‘the optimum supply of vitamins and other bio-energy molecules… that will allow the prevention, treatment, and eventually the eradication of today’s most common diseases.’  He took this message to South Africa in the midst of the AIDS epidemic.

South Africa has been hit harder by the AIDS epidemic than any country in Africa.  In 2003, the year before Rath descended upon the country, an estimated 5.3 million South Africans were HIV positive, while an estimated 370,000 died of AIDS.  Even before Rath’s arrival, effective treatments were kept from the South African population thanks to a government that often denied the link between HIV and AIDS.  Until 2003 the South African government refused to roll out proper antiretroviral medication programs.  In mid-2005, at least 85 percent of HIV-positive people who needed antiretroviral drugs were still refused them.  The country’s health minister was a constant critic of HIV drugs, regularly appearing on television to emphasize their dangers.  Enter Matthias Rath.

Rath wasted no time spreading lies and misinformation throughout the South African public.  He took out full page ads in newspapers claiming that anti-retroviral drugs were poisonous, and a conspiracy to kill patients and make money.  Not only that, there was a multivitamin treatment more effective than any toxic AIDS drug.  You can guess who supplied it.

Rath ran illegal trials of his vitamins near Cape Town, giving his concoction VitaCell to individuals with advanced AIDS.  The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the South African Medical Association (SAMA) successfully took Rath to court to prevent further unauthorized trials and to stop his claims that his vitamins could treat and cure HIV/AIDS.  But the damage had been done.

Rath’s impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is difficult to quantify, but there are indications.  One study estimates that between 2000 and 2005 there were 330,000 unnecessary deaths, 2.2 million person years lost, and 350,000 babies unnecessarily born with HIV.  Obviously these numbers are also largely the responsibility of the South African government, but Rath’s impact shouldn’t be ignored.  The effect of his campaign of lies in conjunction with the actions of the government are still felt today, as men and women exposed to the misinformation of that period still try to treat their disease with vitamins, lemon juice, and garlic.  The death toll climbs higher.

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One Response to “Profile Of A Quack: Matthias Rath”

  1. Homeopathy: Modern Day Snake Oil « Burdened By Proof Says:

    […] against vaccinations (see Australian quack above), provide treatment for AIDS in Africa (shades of Matthias Rath), supply worthless malaria prophylactics, and claim to treat a myriad of other diseases including […]

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