Debating AZT: Mbeki and the AIDS drug controversy - reviews

‘the ravings of [a] drivelling conspiracy-theorist, loony, crackpot, fruitcake. … I’m a professional at spotting weirdos’  David Beresford, Mail & Guardian

‘I do not intend to engage in nonsensical debates on AZT or other AIDS-related matters. I find the issues you raise a total waste of energy but perhaps more exciting for ignorant people in the field. … Remember that I am the scientist and not you’  Malegapuru Makgoba PhD, then president of the South African Medical Research Council, now Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and chairman of the board, Mail & Guardian

 ‘I am emeritus professor of organic chemistry at UND. I am also a doctor of science of Oxford University, and although I know little about AIDS and less about AZT, I am trained to evaluate scientific argument. Your book on AZT ranks among the biggest tosh that I have ever read, and far the most sustained. I would not think the distinguished people whose approving comments you quote can have read much of it. I have no wish to argue with you, it would be impossible to penetrate your ignorant conceit, I would not wish to criticise your book, it would take too long. I do not know whether your basic claims about AIDS are correct or not, I have not seen the evidence, your book is not evidence, it is a prosecution brief drawn up by an inferior lawyer.’  David Taylor DPhil, Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

‘you are justified in sounding a warning against the long-term therapeutic use of AZT, or its use in pregnant women, because of its demonstrated toxicity and side effects. Unfortunately, the devastating effects of AZT emerged only after the final level of experiments was well underway … Your effort is a worthy one. … I hope you succeed in convincing your government not to make AZT available’  Richard Beltz PhD, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, California, inventor of AZT in 1961

‘Hehas tracked and digested every important reference to AZT in contemporary medical literature. The result is a comprehensive and alarming review of the findings of medical researchers on the clinical use of the drug. [Based on the research literature he reviews] the argument [against it] is devastatingly clear’  Martin Welz, editor and publisher of Noseweek, from his foreword to Debating AZT

‘It must be said in Mbeki’s defence that Brink … is an able lawyer who argues his case with persuasive force. … “That was the first time I became aware of this alternative viewpoint,” Mbeki told me. … He was able to persuade the country’s most experienced investigative journalist, Martin Welz, of the validity of his case, so that Welz not only published a series of … articles on AIDS in his investigative magazine, Noseweek, but also wrote a rapturous foreword to Brink’s book on AZT’  Allister Sparks, Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa (Jonathan Ball, 2003)

“That,” Mbeki told me, “is what sparked it off …”’  Mark Gevisser, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred (Jonathan Ball, 2007)

‘Why should a lawyer have to do the work that doctors and scientists ought to be doing?’  President Thabo Mbeki to Professor Sam Mhlongo

‘Christ this is good … beautifully written … extremely accomplished … so much data. Makes the opposition’s platitudes look embarrassingly hollow … Eleni and I think it’s really great’  Valendar Turner MD, consultant emergency physician, Department of Health, Western Australia

‘No … you don’t [merely review the medical literature], it’s the way you write, it’s the way you put it’  Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos MSc, biophysicist, Department of Medical Physics and Engineering, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia

‘superb, extremely well researched, analyzed, written. … I could not have done a better job. … Are you a scientist or do you collaborate with one? How could you survey so many scientific publications as an attorney? … Could you publish your article or a variant of it in a medical/scientific journal? It would strengthen our case no end if scientific papers of that quality would come from several sources, not only from Berkeley and Perth.’ ‘I still can’t believe he wrote that. He’s really a molecular biologist pretending to be a lawyer’  Peter Duesberg PhD, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley, member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

‘Absolutely spectacular … superb ... the definitive refutation’  Harvey Bialy PhD, founding scientific editor, Bio/Technology (now Nature Biotechnology), and scholar in residence, Institute for Biotechnology, National Autonomous University of Mexico

‘excellent … the best, most comprehensive review on AZT currently available’  Etienne de Harven MD, Emeritus Professor of Pathology, University of Toronto, Canada

‘Anthony Brink is a man of many parts: magistrate or barrister by day, musician by night … prose stylist. Above all, dedicated and fearless. … his book … is clear and crisp and his technical mastery most impressive’  Philip Johnson PhD, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley, US

‘outstanding … top dollar writing’  Hiram Caton PhD, Emeritus Professor of Politics and History, and former Head of the School of Applied Ethics, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

‘Deserves serious treatment. More strength to your arm’  Donald Woods

‘Very good. Convinced me completely’  Paul Foot

‘Absolutely amazing … a work of genius … he writes really well … I just love his one-liners’  Rian Malan

‘very nice writing … you can’t really be a lawyer … I love the parallels with other past failed medical panaceas – calomel etc’  Denis Beckett

‘A hefty blow for free speech and against the strictures of dogma … Crisp. Logical. Sometimes over the top. Bristlingly intelligent. Exhausting. Acerbic. Sometimes vicious. For anyone who wants to know what Mbeki’s on about, it’s all here, in a nutshell’  Yves Vanderhaeghen, deputy editor, The Witness

‘an outstanding piece of work … enormously entertaining … expert, trenchant devastation of AZT apologists’  Neville Hodgkinson, former medical correspondent, London Sunday Times

‘extremely courageous … I thought I was beyond shockability but [Brink’s] revelations were stupefying. I think the marketing of AZT to pregnant women is an obscenity’  James P Hogan, science writer and science fiction novelist, Sligo, Ireland

‘wonderful … soldier on!’  George Kent PhD, Professor of Political Science, University of Hawaii, US

‘[AZT: A Medicine from Hell] is a well written, lucid article for anybody to read. … your arguments about prescribing this drug are excellent . … Perhaps when more people like yourself who are not scientists come out publicly to clarify the issue on this drug, pregnant women will be spared! Your article will now be additional prescribed reading for the students in my class’  Shadrack Moephuli PhD (toxicology), senior lecturer, Department of Biochemistry, University of the Witwatersrand

‘What a good comprehensive review of the literature you performed! … During my research I noticed a lot of resistance from many different people to believe our data. In general there is resistance to the “bad news”’  Ofelia Olivero PhD, staff scientist, US National Cancer Institute

‘amazing’  Margarette Driscoll, senior feature writer, London Sunday Times

‘a masterful piece’  David Rasnick PhD, pharmaceutical biochemist and patent holder, California, US

‘a rare combination of incisive insight, entertaining wit, profound perspicacity, all of which and a lot more being available through his racy, delicious pen. He exhibits the uncommon gift of a timely turn of phrase that truly adds spice to the intellectual content. … Mr Brink’s book will have an Illichean impact likely to cure the increasingly sick HIV-AIDS establishment in particular and the medical and governmental establishments in general. His expose is both a diagnosis and a cure. … [It] will re main a classic eye-opener to the misdeeds of modern medicine for decades to come. I am also sure that Mr Illich will give his imprimatur to Mr Brink at first reading’  Manu Kothari PhD, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy, Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, India

‘I started reading it the day it arrived, found it so fascinating that I … read it through to the end that evening. A case of not being able to put it down. Remarkable research and brilliant writing’  Jaine Roberts PhD, Director of Research, Rhodes University; formerly Deputy Director of Research, Health Systems Trust; and researcher, HIV and Economic Health Research Unit, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

‘Every South African should read it. … I couldn’t put it down’  Akash Bramdeo, television journalist, e-TV

‘It reads like a thriller, pulling you in … like a bebop solo, every line packed with information’  Hamish Davidson, former professional jazz saxophonist and horticulturalist

‘I laughed and I cried, I laughed and I cried’  Hector Gildemeister DPhil Oxon, molecular biologist, London

‘I read it at work pinned between my desk and my knees and laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks’  Debbie-Ann Atkins, office machine representative

‘Riveting … [The] style is very funny; it’s a shame the subject-matter is so serious… Perhaps, after all, Thabo Mbeki is a visionary, not the fiddling fool he’s made out to be … [If you are] wondering what all the fuss is about, you will not find a more forceful or persuasive explanation … than in this book. … meticulously referenced, Debating AZT rattles the not-so-dusty medical skeletons of thalidomide, arsenic and mercury salts. It is a remorseless denunciation of the first and most widely used anti-HIV drug’ Don Bayley, former science editor, Sunday Independent and launch editor, Independent Online

‘Humor kan soms ‘n politieke daad van die ernstigste aard wees. Niks is gevaar liker as om onaantasbare persone en instansies belaglik te maak nie. … Wees ge waarsku – die boek het ‘n vreemde uitwerkingop die leser. Enersyds laai dit iets ondraaglik swaar – grotesk eintlik – op jou skouers, iets waarvan jy nie meer met integriteit kan afkom nie. Andersyds moet jy nie verbaas wees as daar na dese ‘n glimlagaan jou lippe kom pluk elke keer as jy die woord “AIDS expert” hoor nie. … Die kersie op die koek – wat van Debating AZT ‘n meesterstuk maak – is die humor waarvan elke reël, asook die spasies tussenin, deurtrek is. … Brink se styl – die samespel van ligsinnige humor en dodelike erns – laat my byvoorbeeld on willekeurig dink aan die profetiese literatuur in die Bybel. … Anthony Brink deins nie terug vir “lawsuits” nie. Hy [skryf] in die styl van meeslepende fiksie. Die boek is ‘n taboebreker – nie in die eerste plek omdat dit die taboe-gelaaide tema van VIGS in Suid-Afrika aanvat nie – maar ook en veral omdat dit alle genre-matige grense verontagsaam. Volgens die antropoloog Mary Douglas het taboe te make met verskynsels wat dreig om gevestigde klassifikasieskemas te ontwrig. Ook die outeur van hierdieboek is in dié sin ‘n taboeverskynsel: ‘n advokaat uit KwaZulu-Natal wat met innemende hubris die heilige teoretiese grond van die mediese wetenskap betree. … Ek kan nie Debating AZT sterk genoegaanbeveel nie – of jy nou ‘n literêre ervaring wil hê, boeiende geskiedenis wil lees, meer te wete wil kom oor die VIGS-polemiek, tot teologiese en filosofiese besinning gebring wil word, of sommer net lekker wil lag. As ek die pous was (of ‘n leidende VIGS-navorser) sou ek die stempel van goedkeuring op hierdie boek aangebring het: nihil obstat. Dit staan geskrywe. Niemand sal ooit kan sê: “Ek het nie geweet nie”’  Gerrit Brand PhD, senior lecturer in Systematic Theology, University of Stellenbosch, and former books editor, Die Burger