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U.S. vitamin
seller sanctioned in South Africa on AIDS drug claims

U.S. vitamin
seller sanctioned in South Africa on AIDS drug claims

South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority has ordered vitamin seller Matthias Rath to submit all future advertisements to an industry authority for the next year to ensure his ads are neither misleading nor defamatory. Earlier this year ASA found that Rath's ads in South African newspapers calling antiretroviral drugs poisonous were misleading and defamed the advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, which Rath accused of being a front for pharmaceutical firms.

Rath's California-based foundation said it would ignore the latest ruling, as it had the previous one. "We will not be censored by the ASA or the Treatment Action Campaign or any other interest group of the pharmaceutical industry under any circumstances," said Rath spokesman Anthony Brink.

AIDS activists have asked South Africa's Medicines Control Council to intervene, arguing that Rath's ads made false claims about the safety of medicines and that he is conducting illegal human experiments in poor townships around Cape Town. So far the MCC has taken no action, which activists blame on interference by health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who often emphasizes the risks of antiretroviral drugs, a point Rath's spokesman noted.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization have also condemned his actions, as have leading U.S. academics and scientists, all of whom say the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs is proven.

If Rath refuses to obey ASA's ruling, authorities can order all newspapers and broadcasters to ban his ads, said ASA spokesperson Dineo Pooe. (AP)

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