This is an interview with Anthony Brink, a South African lawyer who took Glaxo and AZT to court for an AIDS death of a colleague. From Sept 04.
This is an interview done at 4ZZZ Radio in Brisbane, Australia
with Anthony Brink, a South African lawyer who took Glaxo and AZT
to court for an AIDS death but ran out of funds to continue.
From September 2004
It was uploaded onto Indy before but the mp3 doesn't work.
I'm CC. Anthony is AB.
Cal Crilly- I'm talking to Anthony Brink from South Africa who in mid 2001 took a case against Glaxo Smith Kline for the use of their drug AZT which apparently killed a colleague of his. Now Anthony, I just wanted to know how you first discovered AZT was quite dangerous to use for AIDS patients?
Anthony Brink- Well what happened was there was a tremendous
controversy on the go in our country, on account of the
government's reluctance to buy AZT from Glaxo Smith Kline for
administration to HIV positive women and there was quite a fuss
about this and everyone was going berserk and very angry about
the government's resistance to the company's solicitations to buy
this stuff from it. I chanced on some information on the net, my
wife at the time drew my attention to it and I became intrigued
and then I began to read quite deeply into this thing and I wound
up writing a paper called 'Debating AZT, Questions of Safety and
Utility' which I sent off to government and Doctor
Tshabalala-Msimang, the brand new national Health Minister and
President Mbeki who had just taken over from President
(Tshabalala) passed it on to Mbeki and he ordered an enquiry into safety of the drug in parliament on the 20th of October 1999.
CC- So it goes back quite a bit then?
AB- It goes back a long way, yeah.
CC- So has the government been under a lot of pressure to take up these drugs?
AB- Huge, huge, under concerted pressure of all sorts of well meaning foundations as well as a very powerful, aggressive and effective, prodigiously effective organization here called the Treatment Action Campaign run by a guy called Zackie Achmat and his sidekick Mark Heywood. And they've been able to push the government around and force it into taking drug policy positions against it's will really. I mean I know Mbeki himself and Doctor Manto Tshabalala-Msimang the Health Minister have expressed themselves vehemently against these drugs, AZT and similar drugs and Nevirapine for example. They've just found their administration powerless in the face of massive international and local pressure orchestrated by the TAC, the Treatment Action Campaign, but you know with terrific foreign backing, I mean they've got millions, last year they spent more than ten million, a massive budget for an NGO.
CC- Do you think they're actually targeting the South African government because that's one of the richer governments in Africa?
AB- Yeah, it's certainly one of the richer governments in Africa but secondly it's tremendously influential because of our leadership role as a brightest emerging democracy in the developing world.
CC- Opening new markets in a way?
AB- Absolutely, opening new markets, it's a portal market, you're quite right.
CC- Now, when you had the court case in 2001 it was for James Hayman who was a colleague of yours and he died you say from AZT use? What happened in that court case?
AB- We were unable to take the case to trial because it was a
very clean case in the sense that there were no complications.
The fellow was apart from being tired and stressed out from
running a one man band law practice in a small town, he was
really busy, he subsequently took on a partner, apart from being
tired, he was not sick, he'd been through a whole battery of
tests and everything was clear. So it made the fact that his
health collapsed after a he went on AZT, after being told he was
HIV positive in good health, it was a very nice case to take to
court because there were no complications but just before trial
the manufacturer or the local supplier, Glaxo Smith Kline South
Africa made the allegation he'd suffered from an opportunistic
Something had shown up in a pathology examination and when they did a check it had been disconfirmed, but this new allegation at the last minute threatened a massively extended trial which was beyond our means to maintain and secondly, our key expert was a person indisposed, her mother was on the way out and she in fact died a month and a half or so after the trial date. She wasn't able to leave her and come to give evidence, so it was just a concatenation of unexpected misfortunes which knocked the trial off the rails, it was totally dismissed without trial.
CC- Not enough money to take them to court as well, so now you've been targeting the Medicine Control Council, is that?
AB-We're not targeting, what I've been doing is I've written six letters.
CC- Or advising them, sorry.
AB- Yeah, I've written six letters to the MCC and I believe the seventh and to be read at www.tig.org.za, that stands for the Treatment Information Group that I've set up. And the first letter addressed the pending review of Nevirapine for pregnant women which had been announced in May 2002, which was simply in the air and they weren't resolving it, and I asked so what are you guys were up to? They didn't respond directly but the next thing was they announced a recommendation that in future HIV positive pregnant women should take AZT in their pregnancies and this took us to exactly where we all started and I thought we'd moved away from.
CC- Quite terrifying really.
AB- It's appalling, because then I did some real deep research, I thought I knew my story until I really got into this and researched this very closely and you know what I came up with really made me physically sick. I wrote it all down but it physically sickened me to read the threat of harm that's posed by this drug, it's too terrible and I urge listeners to read my sixth letter at T.I.G.
CC- The sixth letter details the damage that the drugs do to children and mothers?
AB- That's in utero and shortly after birth, they're all
detailed, all the latest research, some of which are still in
press for publication in a month or two, none of which, Cal,
none of which was taken account of by the fools who drew the World Health Organizations latest guidelines for interventions to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. It was simply disregarded, or where it was mentioned at all it was dealt very cursory and dismissively, a really shocking report and our MCC simply slavishly followed what the World Health Organization recommended and by the way it wasn't a representative panel, nobody who'd written about the toxicity of AZT was represented on the reviewing panel, the thing was drawn by two women who are great AZT and pregnancy fans and then there was a review panel.
CC- Have they taken it themselves?
AB- Well, yeah, that's an interesting question.
Part 2 of Interview
CC- I was wondering, with the testing over there, it's done mainly at the maternity centres isn't it?
CC- And are you aware of the research by the Royal Perth Hospital Group over here which indicates that pregnant women because of endogenous retroviruses in their placenta will test positive for HIV?
AB- I'm very well aware of it, in fact I'm very close to The Perth Group and I'm an honorary co-author in their some of their writing.
CC- I saw a letter from a prison over there that said that there was only a 2% rate in a male prison, whereas you go into a maternity centres and you have rates of something like 65% of women testing HIV positive, is that an indication that it's all out of control and really the test is just insane?
AB- Yeah, the tests are just completely worthless. The point is that no one wants to know, I mean I was on the radio a few nights ago and I was making this point and there was such resistance, everyone was just gliding over it and no one was taking account of it. The fact of the matter is that these antibody tests are not designed for diagnosis, they are all designed for screening blood by blood banks. The most you can conclude from a reactive result is that look this blood is a bit risky so we'll give this pint a miss. These tests are not manufactured for, nor are they licensed anywhere in the world for making diagnosis' and yet they routinely used for making diagnosis', it's lunacy man.
CC- Are the tests in Africa not as comprehensive anyway?
AB- The testing procedures are not as comprehensive but even the most comprehensive range of antibody tests...
CC- Are meaningless.
AB- Still useless. I mean a repeated ELISA is as worthless as a single ELISA even if you confirm an ELISA with a Western Blot that's also worthless because the manufacturers themselves say you must not use these test results as a basis for making a diagnosis. In fact, Western Blot, which is regarded as definitively diagnostic and confirmatory in many, many countries, is excluded as specifically prescribed in England and Ireland, certainly England, precisely because it's too non specific.
CC- What are the damaging effects of these drugs to the children and mothers?
AB- They are very serious indeed, the one principle form of damage that's thoroughly been researched in animal and in human models is mitochondrial damage which leads to every kind of cellular wasting.
CC- Total energy loss, isn't it?
AB- Yeah, energy loss in some, of course blood marrow destruction
causing persistent anaemia, but most tragically as well, I think,
is the fact that it gives rise to a form of time bombing, delayed
presenting brain damage and in September 1999, just before
President Mbeki ordered an enquiry into the drug, the French
paediatric AIDS group reported in Lancet, that 8 children had
been severely crippled, we're talking about total and partial
spasticity, blindness, you know terrible neurological damage,
gross brain damage really. All showing up, not at birth, the
earliest case at four and a half months and then these children
really started declining, you know it's tragic man.
The preliminary report was confirmed in June last year in 2003.
CC- Is there much opposition from any other quarters over in South Africa?
AB- No, not at all.
CC- (You can hear my mumbling dismay at this point.)
AB- I've been running a solo operation here, I've been a one man
band, I've got a close colleague in the shape of Professor Sam
Mhlongo at the medical University of South Africa, he's now got a
couple of doctors with him too, there's a journalist in
Johannesburg who's been quite vocal about it but I've been doing
all the fighting, all the warring on the AZT front and then I've
also written extensively about Nevirapine.
I very actively involved in a Nevirapine case behind the scenes and I haven't told the story how bad the drug is, what junk it is, listeners can read at the T.I.G. site.
CC- You did mention that Alister Sparks just wrote an article on it?
AB- No, he wrote a book, his third book, he's written three
CC- What sort of take did he have on it?
AB- Well, Alister Sparks is what I'd like to say an AIDS (fait?)
roller, he loves the AIDS cause and you know the AIDS drugs, and
the devastation that we're facing and this new black plaque, the
black death and all this kind of heart talk. But at page 286 of
his new book 'Beyond the Miracle, Inside the New South Africa',
he mentions that conversation with Mbeki, an interview with Mbeki
for the book he was researching, and he quoted Mbeki, saying that
was the first time I became aware of the alternative viewpoint,
Mbeki told me, etc. etc.
But I know that I moved him (Mbeki) to order the enquiry into the safety of the drugs because shortly after his parliamentary statement I was repeatedly approached by members of his office and a couple of members of the ANC and so on.
CC-At this point I asked about the Benzene and pollution problems in South Africa and Durban's 20 fold leukemia rate but that was out of Anthony's field and the interviewed wound up there.