Doctor earns rebuke for `Aids remedy'

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A UGANDAN doctor trained in Britain who is selling a vitamin supplement as a treatment for Aids has been publicly rebuked by the Royal medical college, of which he was a fellow.

Professor Charles Ssali, a former ear, nose and throat surgeon in Scotland who now runs an Aids clinic in Uganda, plans to offer his treatment, called Mariandina, through health-food shops in Britain. He claims to have treated 17,000 patients at his clinic over the past five years and obtained an 80 per cent recovery rate.

He told a meeting at the Africa Centre in London on Monday night that he had patients in Britain who had taken the treatment. "They are friends of mine, they have got Mariandina from me and they are cured. As soon as I have the necessary permits and have made arrangements it will be available to all those who want it. I will sell it through health-food stores."

Professor Ssali was suspended by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1992 for non-payment of the annual subscription. However, in an unprecedented move, the college last month posted a "Note regarding a Dr Charles Ssali" on its internet website, announcing that he had claimed to have found a cure for Aids and that he had been suspended.

Mariandina is made by Pharmadass, of Greenford, Middlesex, a company supplying vitamins, health food supplements and natural cosmetics to pharmacies and health food stores. It is made exclusively for Professor Ssali to a recipe supplied by him. It comes in three formulations, A, B and J, and costs pounds 60 for a month's supply, four times the average monthly income in Uganda of pounds 14.

The National Drugs Authority in Uganda banned Mariandina last year, arguing that patients were being duped into buying a worthless treatment which left them impoverished and unable to buy food. The ban was lifted after protests from patients and MPs and then re-imposed. About pounds 14,000 worth of the pills are currently impounded at Entebbe airport in Uganda.

Professor Ssali is a persuasive speaker and attracted enthusiastic applause from his audience of 100 mostly black Africans in London on Monday night. The treatment, which he describes as an "immune booster", is a combination of vitamins, herbal extracts and micronutrients. He believes it can help Aids in the way that oranges relieved the symptoms of scurvy in the 18th century.

He told the meeting that he was the victim of a conspiracy by the major pharmaceutical companies, who wanted to discredit his discovery in order to protect their own Aids drugs such as AZT and the protease inhibitors, from which they were making large profits.

One woman, who gave her name as Rosalyn, said she had read about Mariandina in the Nation newspaper in London and contacted her father in Zimbabwe to obtain a supply of the drug for her 47-year-old aunt who was seriously ill with suspected Aids. "Within four days she had stopped vomiting and started eating again and from then she gradually got better," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that if the doctor tried to sell Mariandina as a treatment for Aids in the UK he would be in contravention of the Medicines Act.

"You cannot make medicinal claims for a product without a licence," she said.