HIV immune booster not tested

2010-06-29 00:00

THE Health Department has refuted claims by the manufacturer of uBhejane that the mixture was registered with the Medicines Control Council (MCC) in March this year.

Manufacturer Zebulon Gwala calims the mixture, which is used by HIV- positive people as an immune booster, is registered with the MCC.

The council requires that a drug undergoes four phases of clinical studies before it can be registered.

Gwala claims to have a registration certificate for the mixture, which is made up of 83 ingredients.

He also claims that there are medical doctors who administer the mixture to their patients, but refused to name them.

“I’m working on having the mixture available at government hospitals and clinics. I’m meeting with [KZN Health] MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo after the World Cup to discuss that idea. This mixture was tested at Medunsa through a study that was commissioned by the late health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang,” said Gwala.

He said the study was done for less than 12 months because he ran out of funds, but that the tests done during that period indicate that it increases the CD4 blood count, reduces the viral load and reverses the virus to the point that it is not detectable.

Retired sociologist Herbert Vilakazi was reported to be part of the team that conducted the study on Bhejane at Medunsa.

Vilakazi reportedly said the research proved the mixture is non-toxic and that the patients reported improvements.

Two litres of the supplement is said to be selling for R181.

Said Gwala, “This testing thing is ridiculous. Where have you heard of traditional herbs being tested in laboratories? If I had the money I would do further studies on uBhejane. People are dying and this mixture does bring some relief [for ] … HIV/Aids. I have never said uBhejane cures HIV, but I know that it helps people and it does not have side effects.”

National health spokesperson Fidel Radebe said the drug is not registered with the MCC.

“The MCC does not register complementary medicines. It issues a certificate of acknowledgement which states that the MCC has ta­ken receipt of the required documents.

The certificate is worthless and does not allow the applicant to make any claims whatsoever in terms of safety or quality.

“Until clinical studies are completed, the product should be neither traded nor made available to patients,” said Radebe.

The policy communication and research co-ordinator for the Treatment Action Campaign in in Mgungundlovu district , Zonke Ndlovu, said that if people believe that the mixture is registered, there will be a huge problem.

“People are desperate to find alternative medication because once you are on ARVs you take them for life. So if there’s a belief that uBhejane is better than ARVs, then people dump the medication for uBhejane.

“This will result in patients developing resistance to medication. This therefore calls for Mr Gwala to have his medicine tested and be proved safe in laboratories,” said Ndlovu.

A spokesperson for the KZN Health Department confirmed there could be a meeting between Gwala and MEC Dhlomo.

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