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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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October 16, 2005

Matthias Rath, Pioneer

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Posted by Derek

It's been a little while since we checked in on Dr. Matthias Rath, vitamin entrepreneur and scourge of my chosen field of work. But there have been some wonderful developments that I'd like to share with everyone. A note from a reader brought him to mind:

"Your education may not be serving you in a changing world. From some of what I have read you remind me of the physics professor who is still teaching the Bohr atom, sure that the quantum madness will go away. I highly recommend, before uttering another "sure" word on medical cures, you find and interview 10 patients whose HIV has been arrested by alternative treatment and 10 cancer patients who were diagnosed terminally ill and whose condition was reversed under Dr Rath's methodologies. I have followed them, in awe, watching as they were liberated from the naivete of the modern medicine you hold high. . ."

As I pointed out in a reply, it would do Doctor Rath a world of good for him to humiliate the medical establishment in a clinical trial showdown. You'd think that that we should be able to get the World Health Organization or some other worthy organization to referee, and if Rath's treatments are that good, he'd have nothing to fear. Think of it - the drug companies would have to eat dirt and Dr. Rath would be an instant hero for his amazing medical advances. No more nasty comments from snide onlookers like me, no more threats of arrest. . .why doesn't he come and settle our hash already?

I think we already know the answer to that question, don't we? But in case you've any doubt, take a look at the latest news from South Africa, where Dr. Rath has been parading patients who he claims have been fighting off HIV infection by taking his vitamins. As it turns out, they seem to have been supplementing the supplements:

Two HIV-positive women presented to the media in June by the Dr Rath Health Foundation as examples of how its vitamins can reverse Aids have admitted that they were on antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs all along. A third woman, a high profile Rath Foundation agent who has been promoting the vitamins in Gugulethu, died a few months after rejecting ARVs. . ."

Well, that's one way to do it. Dr. Rath, once again, is on the cutting edge of clinical practice. Think of the power of this technique! You could probably show that chocolate ice cream is an effective cholesterol-lowering agent, as long as you dosed people with a statin on the sly. Imagine how much proprietary-recipe chocolate ice cream you could move that way. . .and at twenty dollars a bowl, most likely. Oh, I'm in the wrong business, I tell you. If I could just cut every bit of human conscience out of my psyche, to the point that I could deceive terminally ill people into forsaking their only chance of survival and spending the last of their money on my worthless crap instead - I could be down there with Dr. Rath, wallowing around in the hundred-dollar bills like a pig in a trough. Doesn't he look happy, though. . .

Comments (14) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Snake Oil


1. Brad on October 17, 2005 2:16 AM writes...

I've also been following the exploits of Matthias Rath in my blog for several months now. I only hope this news is enough to bring South Africa's health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to her senses and get her to denounce his practices once and for all.

Unfortunately, I fear this will not be the case.

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2. Derek Lowe on October 17, 2005 8:59 AM writes...

Daksya, I take your point about progress coming unevenly. But if Rath wanted to run a comparative trial, there's not much that we could do about it.

When we compare a new medication versus an existing one, we don't have to ask the other company for permission. Rath could set up a trial of his wonder vitamins versus the existing standard of care - the only problem would be getting any regulatory authorities to agree that having a "Rath group" as well as a control group was ethical practice. But I'm sure that he could find a venue, if in fact he were the tiniest bit interested in a head-to-head comparison.

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3. Still Scared of Dinosaurs on October 17, 2005 9:42 AM writes...

the only problem would be getting any regulatory authorities to agree that having a "Rath group" as well as a control group was ethical practice

Depends on the disease and endpoint. Most cancers would be No-Nos, but HIV might be if short-term measures like viral levels and/cd4 count were used in a population in which it was considered ethical to withhold treatment for a short while. It's been a while since I've worked on HIV trials so I'm not even sure where the idea of treatment interruption stands, but a continued treatment group vs. a placebo groups vs. a Rath vitamin group in such a setting would give a pretty clear indication of where his treatments lie (pun intended).

Furthermore, other disease indications would be less problematic. There's no problem leaving HCV patients without treatment for extended periods of time since that's the standard of care anyway.

There's still the question of equipoise, which I usually interpret as requiring sufficient levels of belief and doubt among qualified individuals to justify running the trial. The situation of doubt concentrating primarily among qualifed individuals and belief among often desperate individuals lacking backgrounds that help weight the merits of different treatments presents a interesting twist.

And for anyone who's interested my definition of "qualified" would be someone who does it for a living. Insert your own if you don't like that.

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4. milo on October 17, 2005 12:55 PM writes...

Hey, imagine if Rath and Trudeau (did I spell that right?) sat down and put their massive heads together and combined all their knowledge about vitamins and holistic voodoo.... I dare say that pharma would have a lot more to worry about than Cox-2 inhibitors and expiring patents!

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5. Rich Greenwood on October 17, 2005 6:04 PM writes...

Well, it certainly is easy to be critical- and in fact important as well. But to be overly critical is certainly counter-productive.

Here's a question- of the thousands of drugs currently available, how many cure anything? Don't most, if not all, merely treat symptoms? ARV's, for example, do they actually improve the person's condition, or merely help manage it? And for how long, and and at what cost? How many months do ARV's add to a person't life, on average? IF you factor in the toxisity?

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6. Derek Lowe on October 17, 2005 8:47 PM writes...

Cures are hard to come by, it's true. But there are a few out there. Antibiotics cure infections, right off the bat. Can Dr. Rath?

Antiretrovirals don't cure HIV infections, though. But look at the mortality rate figures from the disease before and after they've been introduced, and tell me that they're not worth it. Actually, you could hop over to Andrew Sullivan's blog and ask him, while you're at it.

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7. WBurke on October 19, 2005 12:02 PM writes...

Mortality rates among ARV recipients is not the most alarming stats Derek, check the Bankruptcy rates among ARV customers due to astronomically high costs for the therapy. Your presentation of Dr. Rath again defies logic as does your impression that a study would be easily implemented if he wished it to be so - you are an absolute IDIOT Derek to even present the idea Big Pharma would not flex its influence to undermine any such study.

And as for your "cure" example - Antibiotics? Come on dude, that's lame. A strong immune system PREVENT the Flu as well as inumerable potential infections, not to mention cancer and HIV/AIDS.

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8. Myers on February 26, 2006 1:16 PM writes...

Enjoy your page.
But betweeen the back and forth over whether Rath is a Savior or a Frankenstein, why throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Is there still a debate over the postive effects of vitamin C?
Most MD's poo poo the effects of food, while super vital and healthy people know that this is crux of the matter.
Sanitation in South Africa is very poor in townships and that is where aids is rampant. The only cause? No. But not to be discounted in the total picture...

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9. Patricia on March 24, 2006 6:40 PM writes...

I do not know your agenda. I just have to talk about my personal experience. My father suffered from Lung Cancer. He was treated for 3 months and we were told that due to the stage of his cancer he could only survive a month. The cancer was taking over 1/3 of his lung and it was growing to such pace that it was compromising the heart. From being a strong men he collapse to be a totally dependant person for the most simple tast, moving his hand. After my husband found Dr. Raths clinical research, by the way that is more powerfull to me than your finds, I contacted their institute, described my father's condition and I received a complete instruction on how and how much he should consume the nutrients. I was able to take off from work only seven days to visit my father in Peru, South America, and since there was not much to do for him according to the doctors where he was hospitalize, but to put him thru more pain with several kinds of tests and conventional treatment, we decided to take him home and start with Dr Rath program. Almost inmediately my father from not eating at all started to eat small portions of a 3 course meal, in less than 7 days he was sitting down and eating by him self. Remember, latin man has the idea of MACHO, not suplements are necesary beside a well and varied diet. My Father from being bone and skin, having grayish color skin, eyes very pronunced, and with not more strengh on him than just being able to lay down. Like I said before a depart from Peru I saw my father seating down and eating by him self, in 2 weeks he was walking and although doctors that could not believe his improvements were telling us to spect ups and downs. My father continue constant improvements, gaining weight, recuperating color in his cheeks, eating a full meal, even the hair that was growing on him was blonde. My brother, macho man, now are taking Dr Rath program.
I am greatfull to him for having the courage to put his products available for us, in spite of people like you.

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10. Sean on February 7, 2008 11:18 PM writes...

Amazing example from Patty above me, but not the least of the cases I have seen walk by utilizing his research. What amazes me is that despite the fact that his company is NON-Profit, you call him an entrepeneur. This disinformation you spread is the first link in the data chain that leads us to know how little you know when you attack him. Further, you never say what Dr Rath is DOING in South Africa except pushing his vitamins, which is not true. He is feeding the people, working on better sanitation and more importantly, educating the people there about AIDS. YOu never address this, only make baseless accusations and sensational claims. Where is your proof? A few litigations you do not append the actual facts of the case of to your article?

Your kind of reporting is National Enquirer style journalism, congratulations. Reporting second hand distorted data only makes you look more ignorant than the people your are quoting from...which I may add have an agenda like your own.

His research is peer reviewed, that is a fact, and published in medical journals, an undeniable fact. It's reproducible and the only stopping it has been the fact that no one wants to let him have a few human trial succeed to make the FDA eat dirt like the original journalist stated.

Please, do us all a favor and do some actual journalism. Dig for info, don't quote the quotes of liars, it makes you a three time fool.

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11. Daniel on August 12, 2008 2:52 PM writes...

Since you are a product of the pharmaceutical industry, please explain and/or justify how it is acceptable for over 180,000 people to be killed each and every year from properly taking perscription drugs as dosed out by their physicians. At the same time there was one death that could be linked to natural supplements last year.

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12. daen on August 12, 2008 9:15 PM writes...

And would you like to tell us where you get these statistics from, or have the voices in your head been speaking again?

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13. Petrps on September 13, 2008 2:50 AM writes...

Mathias Rath gets (some) comeuppance

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14. dave p on September 19, 2009 3:58 PM writes...

After 4 strokes and 8 heart attacks,a bypass, and open heart surgery I was told I had excess scar tissue and was unable to have further operations and due to the fact I was having many angina attacks It was determined I had a limited (in weeks) life span I then felt I had little to lose,I adopted Dr.Raths vitamin plan that was in 2004. Today 9/09,I feel healthier than I felt ten years ago!!I am 74 years of age.I trust Rath and have little teust in pharmaceutical industry or FDA.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Matthias Rath, Pioneer:

Rath Update from AIDS Combat Zone
Be sure to check out Derek Lowe's article on these recent developments in his blog, "In the Pipeline." [Read More]

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