THE TRUTH ON AZT
Transcript of Broadcast on South African TV
By Vivienne Vermaak
12 Dec. 1999
E Files is a current affairs programme on SA's free to air TV channel. This segment is 13 minutes long and was almost taken off air a few days before broadcast. The SA government has recently ordered an investigation into the safety of AZT. The participants in the programme were:
- Prof. Ruben Sher. (HIV Expert and SA AIDS pioneer)
- Prof. Sam Mhlongo. (Head: Family Medicine. MEDUNSA)
- Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (SA Minister of Health)
- Dr. Peter Moore (Medical Director, GlaxoWellcome SA)
- David Patient (Living with HIV)
- Brett Anderson (Living with HIV)
- Anonymous mother
- Marten Du Plessis (Investigative Journalist "Noseweek")
- Martin Welz (Editor: "Noseweek")
(PICTURE OF SKULLS AND CROSSBONES LABEL. PILLS)
"This is an AZT label, as used by laboratory researchers. In America, this AZT label is used as anti-AZT propaganda. In South Africa, few people are even aware of the controversy surrounding this anti AIDS drug"
"Any doctor, or medical scientist who has dispensed AZT to an AIDS patient or an HIV positive patient since the Concorde trials, is a party to murder."
"I don't buy that. I can show you patients I haven't killed."
"In hindsight, I suspect that going off the drug did save my life because everyone else who was on the drug has subsequently died."
"Glaxo Wellcome manufactures the drug. Their stake in it is worth billions."
"We find it unusual that these allegations of safety aspects on AZT has suddenly arisen in South Africa. They have not surfaced in any other country around the world, in over a 100 countries where the drug is registered. There is no other regulatory body at the level of the Medicines Control Council which is reviewing AZT because of safety concerns."
"If it is the first time, then somebody has to start."
"The government has refused to supply the drug for free. This saves them billions."
"What we are trying to do is to put on the table information, so that the citizens of this country, if by any means, if they get hold of the drug they do it knowingly, so that no one can: 'we were not told.'"
"HIV expert Ruben Sher believes AZT is a lifesaver if used correctly."
"At certain doses the drug can kill you, at other doses it can be beneficial."
"Prof Mhlongo investigated AZT in London. He believes the drug can be a death sentence."
"My opinion of AZT is that it is highly, highly toxic. And in fact, if you take it for a longish period, say 3 months or more, you may develop a syndrome worse than AIDS itself."
(DAVID PATIENT LECTURING)
"David Patient lectures on HIV and how to live with HIV. He was one of the first people to test the drug. At maximum dosage."
"In about two months of taking the drug I noticed tremendous side effects. I developed severe pains in my legs, the nightsweats , the diarrhoea. There was the myocitis, which is the wasting away of the tissues surrounding the muscles, a very uncomfortable experience. I noticed a lot of nausea. Liver problems with a lot of people who were taking the medication …
In that process I noticed that the very things the drug was supposed to be combating it was actually creating.
I said: 'If I'm going to die, I don't want to feel like this.'"
"David went off the drug. He has been HIV positive (and healthy) for 17 years."
"If I look at my immune function now, I'm probably healthier than you are."
(BRETT TAKING PILLS)
"Brett Anderson was recently diagnosed HIV positive. The AZT he uses is a quarter of David's dosage and is part of a cocktail:"
"Thinking about taking AZT wasn't even an option. For me, I just wanted, I'd heard great things …
The only real side effect is diarrhoea, maybe 4 days a week. Diarrhoea is quite dangerous, you can actually die."
"I think drugs are one of the solutions. I don't want to take hope away from people, because sometimes hope is all we have."
(PHOTO'S. DUESBERG "GAS CHAMBERS" QUOTATION)
"Hope is all there is, because there is no proof, say nobel prize winning scientists Walter Gilbert and Kary Mullis. The only proof, says the dissidents is that the drug destroys your immune system, it cannot heal it. Noseweek was the first SA publication to publish these devastating opposing views."
"At first I thought this was crazy, not worth spending any time on. But as I went further into what the dissidents were saying, I understood their arguments were logical, methodical, thorough. They were reasonable. They simply wanted a scientific debate on the issue."
"Debating the issue with doctors proved to be difficult."
"They told us they didn't want to discuss ludicrous nonsense. That was the standard dismissal."
"Prof Mhlongo experienced similar reactions from his colleagues."
"The AIDS industry does not allow dissent. You have to swim with the tide, even if the tide is wrong."
"A co-creator of AZT is quoted as saying the drug is too toxic even for short term use."
"You know, the word TOXIC, if we look it up in the dictionary it means poison. Now to me a poison is something which kills people."
"Exactly, argues Duesberg. The drug is a form of chemotherapy. It was designed to kill cells, not heal them. The side effects of the drug includes malignant tumours, anaemia, dementia and immune suppression. He calls AZT AIDS by prescription. Read the label, he urges."
"I have never seen that label before."
"Questions seem to bring more questions. We asked Glaxo Wellcome for proof. How many people have in FACT benefited from the drug?"
"It is impossible for me to answer that question."
"We asked whether there's any real PROOF that it can reduce HIV transmission in sexual contact?"
"t's difficult to measure. It's never been done (Why not?) I don't know."
"How does Glaxo respond to new research, which claims the drug causes cancer, birth defects and deaths?"
"I'm not aware of the data you just mentioned to me."
"We asked Glaxo to comment on the finding that almost all long-term HIV survivors do not take any anti AIDS drugs."
"Yes, I haven't seen those statistics, so I can't comment on them."
"I don't know what literature they read…"
"They simply have not been reading the latest medical journals, which we as journalists have been reading. We don't get paid for it, they get the big salaries and they're not doing it."
"Look, Glaxo Wellcome knows exactly. And each and everyone of us, if we want to find that information, it is easily available."
"But it is difficult to find clarity amongst the confusion and contradiction. Glaxo Wellcome has not registered the drug for, nor do they recommend it in cases of rape. Yet out of desperation, many continue to demand the drug. Few understand how It works."
"AZT does not differentiate between good cell, bad cell, infected cell, uninfected cell. What it does in essence, it destroys most of the immune system, particulalry the CD4 and its ability to fight."
"The scientific debate is whether AZT kills the cells or not."
"No, it does not kill the cell. What it does, it stops the HIV from replicating. So, the virus is in the cell, it cannot replicate and it is digested by the organelles within the cell."
"Others disagree, adding the drug cannot target specific enzymes."
"Now reverse transcriptase is also present in many other functions of the body. So although we were assured originally that it acted only on the HIV reverse transcriptase because it was specific to HIV, it would seem that it is not quite the truth…"
"Only one in a few hundred cells are infected with HIV. If AZT has to kill off hundreds of healthy cells to get at the one infected cell, the destruction is enormous."
"People don't think that the FDA could possibly make such a mistake in approving a drug like AZT, but if you look at the approval process, there are many obvious flaws."
"Well, I disagree with you that those trials were not properly conducted. They were done according to good clinical guidelines and athey were accepted by authorities like the Food and Drug Administration. But I think what we have to do, we have to move away from those original monotherapy trials."
"We can't move away, argues science writer, John Lauritsen. The original tests were sloppy and fraudulent."
"In 1993, the biggest independent study to date on AZT, the Concorde trials released its damning results:
AZT cannot prolong life. AZT cannot stave off AIDS. Moreover, the side effects can harm or kill."
"Glaxo Wellcome have to be devious to take the position they do now in promoting their product, simply because of the weight of evidence against the use of their product."
"Now pregnant mothers have access to the drug."
"To HIV positive mothers, again, we will treat the opportunistic infections. And to reassure them that 75% born of HIV positive mothers will be born HIV negative."
"AZT has reportedly reduced this percentage by half. Other studies claim the same results by giving the mothers vitamins."
"Here's a mother who took AZT. Within a week of taking the drug, she went into labour two months early."
"I didn't know what to do. I cried. I shouted, why me, why me, why me?
I went into labour early. I only took two, one at nine o clock one at two in the morning. I went for a ceaser the next day."
(OVERLAYS OF MOTHER)
"It would be irresponsible to say the AZT caused this, yet in 1994, the Journal of AIDS reported similar problems, including birth defects. It has been said that the women in these hospitals are guinea pigs, not patients."
"It is sexist, it is racist and it is capitalist."
"Legal action is looming. The International Coalition for Medical Justice is pursuing various cases against the drug."
"There have been some cases, but the claimants have withdrawn their complaints prior to it going to court."
"Desperate and dying people are being exploited. Their fears and anxieties are being exploited for cash."
"A lot of money is involved."
"AIDS is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. It is big bucks. I've always hoped and prayed they would find a cure for AIDS. Now it doesn't make sense for people to find a cure because too many businesses will go under as a result of it."
"That is the problem. Everybody has zeroed in on AZT as if it is the only thing people can do."
"Personally, I don't think it is necessary for people to die of HIV/AIDS. I think a lot of it has to do with mindset, a lot of it has to do with the victim consciousness so many people have."
"I can't argue with that. That is why we have certain guidelines. When to administer anti-retroviral drugs? Because what we're doing with some of these drugs is we're taking people who are well, out of the wellness category and putting them into the sickness category. That's why we have to be very careful. Because the moment a person is taking tablets he thinks: 'Something is wrong with me. I'm deteriorating, that's why the doctor is putting me onto tablets.'"
"You got it! It's a simple recipe. What you put into your body is what your body responds to. If you're putting crap into your body you're going to get crap results. Be as healthy as you possibly can. Most people know what a healthy diet looks like. And for the woman in Soweto, she can buy the seeds. She can grow the pumpkin which gives her certain things. She can grow the morogo, she can grow the umdumbe. She can do all of this in a garden the size of a door!"
"I think the best tablet is the gymnasium. I really do."
"So, to take, or not to take the drug."
"If I was HIV positive, I wouldn't take AZT at gunpoint."
"Prof. Mhlongo asked his colleagues whether they would take the drug."
"Most of them, 70% said they would not take the drug."
"I would not. I wouldn't."
"I wouldn't take AZT."
"Dr Michael Mol came into contact with HIV infected blood from a patient earlier this year. He too choose not to take the drug due to its side effects."
"What it does, it suppresses the immune system. The very system we want to boost."
(OVERLAY OF ANDERSON)
"The average person might ask: "If my doctor won't take the drug, why should I?"
What does one make of this controversy?"
"HIV and AZT: Is it a hoax, is it a scam, or is it just a terrible mess, a mistake?
Well, it's probably a little of all three. Everybody can make a mistake.
A hoax, or a scam - that's unforgiveable."
"Glaxo Wellcome is not killing people with its anti-retroviral medicines.
Glaxo Wellcome is not exploiting any individuals for commercial benefit and your third allegation was that Glaxo Wellcome is lying.
Glaxo Wellcome is a reputable company. We do not lie to people. We do not lie to researchers, we do not lie to scientists, we do not lie to physicians and we do not lie to patients."
Produced and Directed By Vivienne Vermaak. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please note that the following two errors have been pointed out to me. I apologize for any inconvenience caused by these errors:
- The narration states that David Patient has been HIV positive and healthy for 17 years. He has in fact been HIV positive for 17 years, but his current excellent health only came about he revised his lifestyle after his brush with AIDs and AZT in 1986/7. As such he has only been in excellent health for about 12 - 14 years, not 17.
- The narration states that Noseweek was the first publication to publish opposing views. The Citizen, a daily newspaper pointed out to me that they had published articles featuring dissident points of view prior to Noseweek.