The National Health Department has for the first time taken steps against vitamin seller Matthias Rath by confiscating consignments of his flagship multi-vitamin VitaCell in Durban and Cape Town and opening criminal cases for his alleged contravention of the Medicines Act.
This follows the discovery that the South African National Civic Organisation was running a clinic selling Rath's products in the Durban city centre.
Sanco is also allegedly selling the products in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape and in Cape Town.
Rath started making headlines in 2005 when he offered his multi-vitamins as an alternative to anti-retrovirals, causing confusion among those infected with HIV-Aids - while enjoying the support of then health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her director-general, Thami Mseleku.
Calls for Rath to be investigated were rejected, and his operations were only brought to a halt last year after the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) instituted legal action.
The outcome was a court ruling in favour of the TAC, which saw the Cape high court ordering the Health Department to investigate Rath's unlawful actions and take steps to prevent him and his Sanco agents from conducting unauthorised clinical trials.
The court also ordered the parties to stop publishing advertisements about the untested effects of VitaCell.
Medicines Control Council registrar Dr Mandisa Hela confirmed yesterday that the Law Enforcement Unit was conducting an investigation.
She said a consignment of VitaCell, which had been indicated as a food protein supplement, had been confiscated in Cape Town while another consignment had entered via the Durban harbour and was confiscated there.
Hela said a law-enforcement inspector had also visited the Sanco clinic in Durban city centre where he found patients in a waiting room with government clinic documents indicating their CD4 counts as well as posters on the wall advertising VitaCell.
Hela said the inspector tried to seize the VitaCell stock, but was obstructed by the Sanco officials.
He had to return later to the clinic to confiscate the pills with the assistance of the police.
TAC Treasurer Nathan Geffen said he was delighted at the outcome. - Health-e news