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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 9, 2005

Dr. Rath Does What He Can

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Posted by Derek

There's a doctor named Matthias Rath who for some years has been taking out big ads in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. Rath is a big proponent of megavitamin therapy for just about everything, and by some cosmic coincidence he also has a line of vitamins for sale. No doubt he has a web site and a half, but damned if I'll link to it.

His ads are thunderous, paranoid denunciations of the pharmaceutical industry, the likes of which I haven't seen since the Church of Scientology took off after Eli Lilly and Prozac in the early 1990s. If you want some Instant Rath, take those and add some Lyndon Larouche-level conspiracy theories (for a while there, Rath was all but blaming drug companies for 9/11), and mix well. Season to taste, but if you've really got a taste for this stuff stuff, there's no hope for you.

His latest manifestos have been targeted to South Africa, and they're just what that country doesn't need. Rath rants about antiretroviral drugs being sinister poisons, while apparently everyone could be cured of HIV if they'd just guzzle his multivitamins without pause. The South African activist groups demanding free retroviral drugs are, according to him, tools of the "international drug cartel" that exists in the fevered reaches of his head.

It's hard to know how to answer such otherworldly accusations. Try, for example, the idea of drug companies funding groups who are screaming for their patents to be abrogated and their profits confiscated. I'm having a hard time making the connection. All in all, I'd rather be stuck in an elevator for three days with a dozen Intelligent Design advocates than spend five minutes with Matthias Rath.

South Africa's attitudes and policies toward HIV are enough of a mess already, as those who remember former president Mbeki's handling of the epidemic know. According to an article in Nature Medicine, the South African Traditional Healer's Association has sided with Rath, and a recent press conference from health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang featured one of her many endorsements of garlic, lemon peel, and beets instead of antiretrovirals. Meanwhile Rath is lobbying South Africa's parliament directly, amid accusations that he's planning to set up a factory to sell his own vitamin pills.

And meanwhile, at least 20% of South Africa's adult population is infected with HIV. What could be a great nation is threatened with an ugly slide back into the third world, while wastes of good carbon like Matthias Rath spend their time fighting the only known treatments. It makes you wish you could just avert your eyes.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Infectious Diseases | Snake Oil


1. Jerry on June 11, 2005 12:09 PM writes...

Derek may have a good case against the curious Dr. Rath, but I find it hard to take Derek seriously, when he pollutes his argument with such John Bolton-esque whoppers and pure fabrications as this gem.

"...Take those, add some Lyndon Larouche-level conspiracies (for a while there he was all but blaming drug companies for 9/11), and you've got your Instant Rath..."

I am quite familiar with what many people, including Lyndon LaRouche, had to say about 9-11 and its aftermath. Mr. LaRouche called attention to inconsistencies in the official version of 9-11, and asked the all-important question, "Who really benefitted?" I vividly recall his publications comparing 9-11 to the Reichstag Fire--as a pretext for moves toward dictatorship and war.
Given the various subsequent actions of the neo-cons in DC, such as the Patriot Act, Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib torture regimes, and lately the stymied 'Nuclear Option' effort to emasculate the US Senate as a Constitutional check against executive power, I find LaRouche's analysis in retrospect uncomfortably close to the mark.
LaRouche made no mention of drug companies in connection with 9-11, as the author parenthetically asserts. Since even a cursory search of the meticuluous archives at would confirm that, I must assume that either Derek is incredibly intellectually lazy--or he deliberately lied to embellish his argument.
His egregious willingness to mischaracterize LaRouche's analysis does not speak well for Derek's intellectual honesty and calls into question his motives and veracity across the board.

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2. zp2k on June 11, 2005 2:16 PM writes...

The validity of Derek's writings are only further called into question by his misguided positions vis-a-vis oxidation chemistry and in particular the Swern reaction. A brief perusal of provides both a more thorough and, dare I say, more compelling treatment of this and other essential topics in synthetic chemistry. Further, I myself have been horrified by Derek's casual dismissal of the combinatorial chemistry revolution. Many far more esteemed thinkers, including but not limited to Mr. LaRouche, have convincingly called attention to the mysterious confluence of factors and agents that have combined to nip this potential goldmine for humanity in the bud. Is it going too far to describe Derek's casual misrepesentations in the service of those drug companies that would prefer to see the status quo prevail as Alger Hiss-ian? Perhaps not.

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3. Dean on June 12, 2005 9:19 AM writes...

Jerry: I suggest that you learn to parse a standard English sentence. What Derek wrote was quite clear, and yet you've gone off on a lengthy rant based entirely on your misunderstanding.

zp2k: (interesting name. How do you pronounce that? Is the 2 silent? ) Not everything that is unexplained or mysterious is a conspiracy. In fact, given the track record of conspiracies, I'd say that almost nothing that is mysterious is the result of a conspiracy.

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4. qetzal on June 12, 2005 12:08 PM writes...

Dean, time to replace the batteries in your sarcasm-meter? I'm pretty sure zp2k is having some fun at Jerry's expense. (Lyndon LaRouche pontificating on the Swern reaction? Conspiracies to sabotage combochemistry? Alger Hissian? Guffaw!)

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5. dp on June 12, 2005 2:29 PM writes...

To my mind, Jerry's comments were to the point, apt and clear whilst Derek's were, for once, in need of clarification. I have, however, one word for Dean's effluent: no.

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6. Rebekah on June 12, 2005 3:03 PM writes...

It must be realized that there is no cure to anything if the problem isn't recognized.The problem is always a strong foundation, and that's where the cure must be formed. The problem is greedy people who do what they want, no matter how badly the consequences. The consequences need to be burned into the heads of people, and they need to realize that things will actually happen, due to their actions. If the HIV virus is truly recognized for what it is, then a cure can be formed.

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7. qetzal on June 12, 2005 7:02 PM writes...

Jerry's comments were apt? ROFL!

"LaRouche made no mention of drug companies in connection with 9-11, as the author parenthetically asserts. Since even a cursory search of the meticuluous archives at would confirm that, I must assume that either Derek is incredibly intellectually lazy--or he deliberately lied to embellish his argument. His egregious willingness to mischaracterize LaRouche's analysis does not speak well for Derek's intellectual honesty and calls into question his motives and veracity across the board."

Jerry should perhaps re-read the post, then look up the meaning of a common literary device called "hyperbole." Derek didn't say LaRouche blamed the drug companies for 9/11. He said he was "all but blaming drug companies for 9/11" (emphasis added).

I never took that to mean LaRouche actually tried to blame drug co.s for 9/11; rather, that LaRouche espoused conspiracy theories with little or no evidence. Which he clearly did. Here's what LaRouche said on 9/28/01, according to a transcript on the very site Jerry recommends: "[W]e know it's a very high-level rogue operation inside our own country." Not "I think" or "I believe" or "We have evidence to suggest"... "We know...."

Perhaps Jerry thinks Derek's parenthetical comment implied something it shouldn't, but accusations of either incredible intelluctual laziness or deliberate lying are just ludicrous.

In the meantime, it's a shame Rebekah was too coy to come right out and tell us what the HIV virus truly is, so we could get to work forming that cure. (Unfortunately, I think I can guess her answer, and I doubt I'd like it much.)

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8. Derek Lowe on June 12, 2005 9:16 PM writes...

I've edited the post to make it more clear that it's Rath who was more or less blaming the drug companies for 9/11, not Lyndon Larouche.

Larouche has yet to take that particular crazy and insupportable position, as far as I know. But he takes so many, that it's hard for a man to keep up.

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