A dozen facts about Solal and their "critics"

Harris Steinman, who has for many years been monitoring and taking action against unsubstantiated medical claims, sets the record straight on Solal Technologies.

Solal Snake Oil Cartoon
Cartoon adapted from image found here
Solal often stands alone in the interpretation of the evidence that they apply in support for their claims.

Brent Murphy and Colin Levin, directors of Solal, have written a vitriolic response to the article How Solal Technologies uses legal threats to squash criticism written by Marcus Low. In Solal’s response many misleading or simply incorrect statements are made that I initially was going to ignore, but I realise that this may inadvertently result in readers who do not follow my blog, CamCheck, accepting Solal’s response as having validity.

In responding, some very unpleasant truths have to be revealed. These are the facts:

Fact 1

Solal took great exception to the article which states:

Solal Technologies (Pty) Ltd sells supplements that it claims are remedies or prophylactics for a whole range of diseases, including HIV, cancer, hypertension and depression.

A long diatribe claims that their products are simply nutritional support. As Nathan Geffen has stated, “for the [Low article’s] statement to be true, Solal only have to make a remedy claim for [just] one of the listed diseases [HIV, cancer, hypertension, depression]”

From a selection of Solal documents downloaded from the Solal website (downloaded 31/03/2011):

Pure Whey Protein Concentrate: ”Whey Protein is a valuable treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) it significantly improves the function of the Immune System in AIDS patients.”

Co-Enzyme Q10: “Severely and significantly depressed co-enzyme Q10 levels can hasten the progress of the HIV-positive patient to AIDS, thus allowing for Co-enzyme Q10 therapy, as a possible adjunct treatment for HIV-positive and ARC patients.” (Note: ARC – AIDS related complex – is not a term in widespread use these days. This is a clue to a very old reference.)

Curcumin: “Immune System Curcumin may be a valuable treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients” and “Curcumin may help to prevent the development of and inhibits the further growth of some forms of Cancer”

NAC: N Acetylcysteine “may enhance the Immune System in Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients and may help to prevent HIV developing into full-blown AIDS”, “NAC has been suggested as a viable alternative to Pharmaceutical Protease Inhibitors for the treatment of AIDS” (emphasis added) and “NAC may help to prevent various types of Cancer”

(Note: 1. Suggesting a substance such as NAC to be a viable alternative to protease inhibitors is almost exactly the same kind of claim made by Dr Rath for vitamins. 2.acetylcysteine is a Schedule 2 substance – its distribution is therefore restricted)

Chrysin: “Chrysin might have activity against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”

Bitter Melon “Inhibits the progression of some forms of Cancer, is beneficial for the treatment of (AIDS)”

Curcumin Extract “Curcuminsanti cancer actions. A powerful and natural cancer-fighting substance” and “Curcumin is a valuable treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients”

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) "The most abundant hormone in the body that declines with age. . . reduces risk of cancer . . . helps prevent adult onset diabetes; - controls Alzheimer’s, Lupus, Aids, . . ."

Glutamine “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients are found to be deficient in Glutamine. Glutamine may counteract the damage to the Gastric Mucosa ..."

Grapefruit Seed Extract ". . . . is presently under investigation as a potential inhibitor of the HIV virus that causes (AIDS)" and "... being investigated as a means of treating the various opportunistic (secondary) infections (from Detrimental Bacteria, Fungi, Parasites and Viruses) that occur in conjunction with AIDS".

Methylcobalamin (Vit. B12): "Useful for Ears/Hearing, (AIDS), ..." and "Vitamin B12 inhibits the replication of the HIV. Helps to prevent breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks."

Nettle Leaf Extract: "May inhibit some types of Viruses including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (which is the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)"

Olive Leaf Extract: "... helps to suppress the replication of the HIV virus implicated in (AIDS) ..."

Quercetin: "...has significant antitumor activity against various forms of cancer. Prevents many infections caused by viruses and helps to suppress the HIV virus, ..."


Solal claims there is "ample evidence in published peer reviewed medical journals" to support the claims that Solal Technologies make. The truth is that many of the studies have not been reproduced, are over 20 years old and have been superseded by opposing evidence, and/or were conducted in rats, other animals, or in other totally inappropriate models.

Prof Roy Jobson and I, and others, have examined many of Solal’s claims and products and have found that much of the evidence is inappropriate, often distorted, applicable only to animal models, not reproducible, extrapolated from a specific study population to inappropriate populations, conflicts with many other superior studies. Indeed, their evidence often even flies in the face of consensus reports or evidence from internationally recognised credible experts. I can supply an example for each of these. It is no wonder that the ASA have ruled against many of the claims being made for their products.

In other words, Solal often stands alone in the interpretation of the evidence that they apply in support for their claims. Astonishingly Solal’s claims are often even contradicted by NMCD (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, a highly regarded review system for authoritative assessment of natural/complementary medicines. Solal confuse an association with a cause. They extrapolate from small studies in Japanese children to the population in general. They apply pseudoscientific arguments. They use methods contrary to the principles of evidence based medicine which are utilised throughout the world by all credible scientific universities and research establishments including all reputable South African centres of higher learning. For example, studies in rats cannot necessarily be extrapolated to humans (see this article on Camcheck).


Solal have used legal methods to prevent anyone from opposing their aggressive marketing methods and false or misleading claims. They have not only tried to muzzle those mentioned in the article but appealed the Medicines Control Council decision to rescind the faulty 2002 Complementary Medicine Call-up/audit. (Personal communication: Rene Doms, legal counsel for Solal). This appeal seems to have not yet been resolved.


I have stated on numerous occasions to numerous public forums that I am not anti any particular form of therapeutic intervention (e.g. natural medicines) as long as there is robust proof of safety and efficacy. Solal comes up short on both (these arguments adequately demonstrated by other postings on this blog).


I can without difficulty defend all the statements I have made regarding Solal for which they have threatened to sue me for defamation; however because of Solal’s legal threat against me, I am advised against defending them in a public forum at this time.


Solal’s legal threat against me demanded that I not only remove all comments about Solal from CamCheck, but that I never again comment on Solal or its directors. This is entirely unreasonable and in essence amounts to attempted censorship of a critic.


As to the true facts regarding the arbitration requested by the Sugar Association (SASA), “Solal Technologies Fine Pharmaceuticals” argued to the ASA that they have no more interest in the specific product because the product had been sold to another company (Capraplex). What Solal did not state was that most if not all of Solal’s directors are directors of the Capraplex. Capraplex changed their name to Solal Technologies Pty Ltd. and Solal Technologies continues to advertise and sell the product. Solal argued that arbitration could not proceed because the product was owned at the time of the offending advertisement by another legal entity. The ASA have accepted from SASA a new complaint against the same product now owned by the “new” (legal entity): Solal Technologies (Pty) Ltd. (SASA source).


Solal writes: “The ASA have undertaken to suspended (sic) all proceedings against Solal as they are concerned that they do not have the legal power to rule on such matters”. In fact, Solal challenged the ASA’ jurisdiction over certain sections of the regulations and the ASA have suspended further proceedings while they investigate whether there is any validity to Solal’s legal arguments.

However Clause 4.25 of Section I or Clause 4.1 of Section II of the ASA’s Code, which involves scientific substantiation and documentary evidence respectively to support any claims, cannot be willed away for without these clauses, the ASA will have no purpose.

Clause 4.25 of Section I of the ASA’s Code states: “Scientific substantiation means “substantiation based on statistically valid data, employing a validated, proven scientific method and applicable to the claim being made.”

Clause 4.1 of Section II of the ASA’s Code states “4.1.1 Before advertising is published, advertisers shall hold in their possession documentary evidence as set out in Clause 4.1, to support all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.”


“4.1.2 Documentary evidence, other than survey data, shall emanate from or be evaluated by a person/entity, which is independent, credible, and an expert in the particular field to which the claims relate and be acceptable to the ASA”. (emphases added)

These criteria alone are sufficient to assess Solal’s products.

Solal’s challenge does not alter the fact that the ASA rulings against Solal stand until officially changed.

I have now had confirmation of this from the ASA:

Solal did raise concerns over the legality and enforceability of any ASA decisions against their advertising in relation to the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of our Appendix A and Appendix F. As a result, we initially suspended all investigations in relation to these appendices in order to satisfy ourselves that we are acting in accordance with our mandate and within the laws of the country.

This interim suspension, however, only applied to concerns raised under these appendices, and any complaints relating to other clauses within the Code are not affected by it.”

We will, in due course, rule on the issue of Appendix A and Appendix F as well, in order to give finality on those issues.”


With regards to Vitamin D, Solal Technologies, Solal HAS advertised that Vitamin D is as effective as a vaccine, the inference or innuendo being that the one can replace the other. If any disclaimers did appear, these were after the fact. Solal’s adverts also claimed that “90% of South Africans tested at the Integrative Medical Centre in Bryanston last year were deficient in vitamin D” yet as Kevin Charleston pointed out in the blog, that “a simple analysis of the data [Solal] have provided suggests that 187 out of the 724 data points are at or below 20 n/mL. I.e. around 25% are below the recommended level. I note that less than 10% are at the level (below 15 n/mL) deemed by the NIH to be 'deficient'.”


Brent Murphy and Colin Levin take umbrage against a statement I made on my blog regarding Solal’s medical director, Dr Craige Golding. The point I made was that his "anti-aging qualifications” are not recognised by the American Board of Medical Specialties, that anti-aging is not a recognised medical specialty, and that it is certainly not recognised as a specialty by the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa). I stated that it is misleading to imply that he is a specialist in anti-aging medicine.

Cliff M Nkuna, the Legal Advisor & Act Compliance Officer of the HPCSA confirmed:

When a practitioner advertises, he can include all his academic qualifications even though such are not recognized by Council. He however cannot claim to be a specialist in a category not recognized by us.


Even if “Harris Steinman has surreptitiously assisted others in lodging complaints”, which he has not, there is no ASA regulation preventing this - only from submitting a complaint under the name of another.


Dr Harris Steinman and Prof Roy Jobson have not made up their own rules but follow internationally best practises of evidence based medicine and processes in evaluating evidence for safety and efficacy.

Evidence of the latter’s expertise and credibility is supported by the fact that Prof. Jobson was previously Chairperson of the Rhodes University Ethical Standards Committee involved in the review of research; a member of the MCC’s Clinical Trials and Complementary Medicine Committees, Chairperson of the MCC’s Pharmacovigilance committee and a Council member of the Medicines Control Council itself. He resigned in January 2008 after the MCC failed to take action over the Dr Rath debacle. His concerns about Dr Rath were vindicated in the June 2009 High Court Judgment against Dr Rath.

Dr Harris Steinman has served as a member of two Expert Technical Consultation committees of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organisation).

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Comments in chronological order (26 comments)

Michael Meadon wrote on 4 April 2011 at 12:47 p.m.:

Excellent piece. Shame on Solal for trying to use the courts to suppress critical comment.

Hamid Khan wrote on 5 April 2011 at 5:01 p.m.:

I was alerted to this website by an article in the daily Sunday Times. This is excellent work. The public (those that are willing to accept scientific evidence)need to know about the false and dubious claims made by all those selling cures aimed at extraxcting money from peoples pockets. I feel that a permanent column in the local knock and drop newspapers will educate the public about these dubious health products. I would like to contribute to this project. Please tell me how I can help.

Marcus Low wrote on 7 April 2011 at 10:51 a.m.:

See this excellent debunking of a Solal claim posted on camcheck.

Nathan Geffen wrote on 7 April 2011 at 12:23 p.m.:

Hi Hamid

I've sent you an email. Let's discuss via email from hereon.

Regards Nathan

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:37 p.m.:

SOLAL Technologies’ response

Re: “FACT 1”

The document Harris refers to that he downloaded from our website is an old document (as even Harris noted by using the outdated term “AIDS related complex”). It should not have been available for download on our site, and we distance ourselves from some (but not all) of its contents. In the past (a few years ago) SOLAL Technologies published research and opinions by others regarding the treatment of HIV/AIDS using supplements. Although some of these statements included “NAC has been suggested as a viable alternative to Pharmaceutical Protease Inhibitors for the treatment of AIDS”, it has NEVER been SOLAL’s opinion that this is the case, but rather the reported opinion of others, years ago – where it was our intention to report various opinions. Solal states on our website that the views expressed are not necessarily the views of our company but reflect the view of a particular author. WE BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE: SOLAL Technologies does not believe that supplements can treat, cure or prevent AIDS or prevent HIV transmission. We don’t believe that supplements can be used in place of antiretroviral medicines. Furthermore we believe that if someone is on antiretroviral medication there are some supplements that they should avoid, especially in high doses (eg garlic, African potato), as these could reduce the effectiveness of antiretrovirals by liver enzyme induction. We do believe that supplements can be useful in the supportive / adjunctive treatment of HIV/AIDS (note I am using the word “treatment” here) IN SO FAR AS improving immune system and nutritional status of people living with HIV / AIDS, reducing muscle wasting, managing diarrhoea, improving nutrient absorption, lessening the pathogenic load (eg by using probiotics) and by improving quality of life scores in people living with HIV or AIDS (for example DHEA).

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:39 p.m.:

To illustrate what I am referring to, Natural Medicines Database (which Harris endorses) says the following: “Co-enzyme Q10: Possibly effective for HIV/AIDS: Taking coenzyme Q-10 orally seems to improve immune function in people with HIV/AIDS.

-Folkers K, Hanioka T, Xia LJ, et al. Coenzyme Q10 increases T4/T8 ratios of lymphocytes in ordinary subjects and relevance to patients having the AIDS related complex. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1991;176:786-91. -Folkers K, Langsjoen P, Nara Y, et al. Biochemical deficiencies of coenzyme Q10 in HIV-infection and exploratory treatment. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1988;153:888-96.”


“Red Yeast Rice: Possibly effective for HIV/AIDS-related dyslipidemia. Taking red yeast orally seems to reduce lipids with dyslipidemia related to HIV infection.

Reference: -Keithley JK, Swanson B, Sha BE, et al. A pilot study of the safety and efficacy of cholestin in treating HIV-related dyslipidemia. Nutrition 2002;18:201-4.”


“Whey protein: Possibly effective for AIDS related weight loss: Some clinical research shows that taking whey protein orally can help decrease weight loss in patients with HIV.

References: -Bounous G, Baruchel S, Falutz J, et al. Whey proteins as a food supplement in HIV-seropositive individuals. Clin Invest Med 1993;16:204-9 -Salomon SB, Jung J, Voss T, et al. An elemental diet containing medium-chain triglycerides and enzymatically hydrolyzed protein can improve gastrointestinal tolerance in people infected with HIV. J Am Diet Assoc 1998;98:460-2. -Vergel NR, Salvato P, Mooney M. Anabolic steroids, resistance exercise and protein supplementation effect on lean body mass in HIV+ patients. Int Conf AIDS 1998;12:557 (abstract # 32185). -Voss T, Rowe B, Graf L, et al. Management of HIV-related weight loss and diarrhea with an enteral formula containing whey peptides and medium-chain triglycerides. Int Conf AIDS 1991;7:223 (abstract # WB2165).”

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:40 p.m.:

.......Antiretrovirals do not offer the above benefits. Therefore, similar to the argument that vitamin D should be used WITH the flu vaccine, because they offer different benefits, there is also a good argument for the above supplements (and SOME others [vitamin D, probiotics, vitamin A, zinc]) to be used with antiretrovirals where needed. Bear in mind that South African policy is only to give antiretrovirals to patients whose CD count is below 350 for pregnant women and 200 otherwise. This is not based on medical science but economics and politics. They should actually be on antiretrovirals a lot sooner, preferably as soon as an HIV positive diagnosis is made. Over the past year we have updated our entire individual product pages’ package insert information using Natural Medicines Database, Natural Standard or TGA approved texts as sources of our information, and are now in the process of grading this evidence for the consumer. And we are now in the process of updating our labels to match this too. The fact that the outdated document Harris refers to was still available on our website was an oversight and error on our part. The entire document has been removed completely from our website and is not available from us in any form.

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:40 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 2”

We believe that we have evidence to back up our claims. Sometimes animal studies are referred to because it is often only using animals that the mechanism of action of a substance can be determined. In almost all cases we rely on human data. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, we are in the process of grading our efficacy data for the consumer to gauge the level of evidence available. Texts we are using for this process are Natural Medicines Database, The Natural Standard, internationally accepted pharmacopeia and TGA approved texts. Harris Steinman disingenuously uses one study to demonstrate his point, this of course is dishonest. We have never provided Harris Steinman with all of our evidence as he is not the regulator or arbiter of our claims

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:41 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 3”

It is Harris’s opinion that the call-up notice of 2002 was faulty. No court has ever determined that the call-up was faulty, this is a fabrication of Harris Steinman’s’ and Roy Jobson’s in an attempt to lobby the Medicine Control Council to recind this call-up notice. Harris has provided no legal evidence as to why the call-up notice in his opinion is faulty. Based on the legal advice that we have obtained from legal specialists, we as well as the entire industry do think the call-up is faulty at all. The Medicines Control Council merely needs to act on the call up notice and either grant, reject or call for more information in terms of this call up, which it has not done.

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:41 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 4”

Harris does show huge anti natural medicine bias and pro pharmaceutical bias. There are many conventional pharmaceutical medicines available in South Africa for which the safety and efficacy has not been established or evaluated by the (Medicines Control Council (MCC), nor have these medicines been registered. Examples are the unregistered medicines Syndol, Celestamine, Methatrexate and approximately 1500 medicines, yet Harris never targets these, we wonder why……………….

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:42 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 5”

Harris continues to defame Solal and many other medical professionals in public fora and by doing so, you continue to contravene your own medical ethical rules.

Re: “FACT 6”

We absolutely deny that we have asked you to remove all comments about Solal from your Camcheck website, this is another one of your distortions Harris. We have only requested that you remove your defamatory and unlawful comments. This is a prime example of how you continuously distort the truth and it is absurd to label this censorship.

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:44 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 7”

This is clearly an attempt you once again to distort the truth. What you fail to advise the readers is that the ASA Code, confirms that only the entity that places an advert becomes responsible for the advert. When one entity sells its business to another the one entity is not responsible for the advertising of it’s predecessor. What you have tried to do is proffer the argument that if certain persons are directors of a new company, this means that they are somehow doing so in a dishonest attempt to manipulate the ASA. This is again your distorting not only the truth, but the current legal position in SA. You still fail to admit that this matter which you “claim” is awaiting arbitration is patently untrue, there is not waiting arbitration as you have dishonestly attempted to create the impression about.

Re: “FACT 8”

The facts are that the ASA has fraudently misrepresented the situation to the whole of South Africa that Appendix A &F have been set up in conjunction with the Medicine Control Council (MCC). The MCC deny any arrangement with the ASA. The ASA have no authority to regulate medicine advertising, they are laypersons and have no expertise in this area at all.

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:46 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 9”

Regarding our claims of the effectiveness of vitamin D versus the flu vaccine, our position can be viewed here: http://www.solaltech.com/brent/michael/Vitamin%20D%20and%20flu%20vaccine%20statement.pdf

I should again emphasise that SOLAL Technologies does not discourage flu vaccination and we never have. There is evidence that vitamin D enhances the effectiveness of flu vaccinations. SOLAL Technologies believes the ideal is to use BOTH the flu vaccine AND vitamin D.

This synergy is illustrated by way of example: Let’s say paracetamol is as effective ibuprofen at treating a headache, it does not necessarily mean that it should be used INSTEAD of ibuprofen. The ideal is to use them together because their mechanisms of action (pharmacologies) are different and complement each other. The same applies to flu vaccines and vitamin D. Without vitamin D the flu vaccine is less effective since their pharmacologies are COMPLETELY different. They should be used together.

With regards to our statement that “90% of South Africans tested at the integrative medical centre were deficient in vitamin D”. These were in patients with two or more of the following co-morbidities: osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, an autoimmune disease, cancer, depression, chronic fatigue or chronic pain. The reference level we used as a cut off was 50ng/ml, based on recommendations from the vitamin D council, here: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/vdds.shtm l where they state: “We propose Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome (VDDS) exists when 25(OH)D levels of less than 50 ng/mL are found in patients with two or more of the following conditions: osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, depression, chronic fatigue, or chronic pain.” However, due to criticism of bias against the vitamin D council, in subsequent advertising (last year) we changed the “90%” to “80%”, since a review published in alternative medicine review in 2005 stated that vitamin D sufficiency can only be said to exist (in healthy people) when levels of vitamin D are 33ng or greater. The data we supplied of people in Bryanston showed that 81.8% of people had below 33ng/ml of vitamin D.

See: Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review. Located here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15989379 Extracts: “The current vitamin D requirements in the United States are based on protection against bone diseases. These guidelines are being revised upward in light of new findings, especially for soft-tissue health.” “The consensus of scientific understanding appears to be that vitamin D deficiency is reached for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels less than 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L), insufficiency in the range from 20-32 ng/mL, and sufficiency in the range from 33-80 ng/mL, with normal in sunny countries 54-90 ng/mL, and excess greater than 100 ng/mL.”

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:46 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 10”

Harris, you are a hypocrite. You create the impression that you are an expert in allergy medicine, while in fact you are merely a GP. Just because you use the word “specialist” this is just semantics. You use all the other words to create the impression that you are a specialist in allergy medicine. At no stage has Dr Golding ever stated that his anti-aging qualifications are recognised as a speciality by the Health Professions Council, this is a distortion of yours.

Re: “FACT 11”

We are not suggesting that Harris Steinman has assisted others in lodging complaints to the ASA, we know this to be a fact. What you Harris have also done is lodge complaints on behalf of other persons and such types of complaints are not permitted in terms of the ASA Code.

Colin Levin wrote on 28 April 2011 at 10:47 p.m.:

Re: “FACT 12”

Harris, you have gone to great lengths to establish your and Dr Roy Jobson’s expertise and credibility. There are a number of facts that you conveniently do not disclose. The first is that neither you or Roy have any formal education or clinical experience in complementary medicines and therefore your criticisms are merely academic. Neither you nor Roy have any extended formal training in pharmacology other than what you have studied in your GP degree and in Roy’s case, what he may have studied in his Masters in Family Practice. Pharmacology is usually a 6 month course for GP’s. Why don’t both of you actually state how many months of pharmacology you have both formally studied? Pharmacists study for 3 years in pharmacology.

jean wrote on 30 April 2011 at 8:59 a.m.:

HI, I've started using Solal products after reading impressive pamphlets from Dischem. I've always been very healthy, eating properly etc. I've noticed a change in sleeping habits, no cramps or leg pains, skin not so dry and colour, dark spots have improved etc. I've always believed that somewhere, somehow someone would come up with the answers to rejuvenation etc. All the very best, may your products become so good that you silence all the critics, and because of them many people will be able to live long healthy happy lives. May you be blessed and guided abundantly by the GOds! Jean

Roy Jobson wrote on 30 April 2011 at 5:05 p.m.:

For the information of Colin Levin and any others who are interested.

I would not normally bother to respond to Mr Levin's innuendo concerning my qualifications. However this has been raised previously and I want to set the record straight - hopefully once and for all.

I have been teaching clinical pharmacology to final year pharmacy students at Rhodes University since 2006, and prior to that for six years at a medical school.

I have developed formal teaching and learning activities in clinical pharmacology for these students and have overseen the assessment of their learning. I wonder what further formal qualification or training Mr Levin thinks might be necessary? - when I am in fact conducting the training and assessment of the students in pharmacology.

Pharmacology at Rhodes University presently has two parts -- basic pharmacology (over one year) and clinical pharmacology (over one year). This division has been in place for many years. Rhodes does not have a three year undergraduate pharmacology course. Anyone who studied pharmacology for three years must have failed and had to repeat a year.

Medical students do not have only a six month course in pharmacology as Mr Levin claims. In my time, pharmacology was a third year course. Following that, it was constantly reinforced and referred back to during the next three years of clinical rotations in the specialties, and presentations of patients to tutors, lecturers and professors.

Clinical pharmacology is an integral part of most specialist degrees including Family Medicine.

If Mr Levin considers my training and qualifications in pharmacology inadequate or lacking, perhaps he can explain: Why did Rhodes University appointed me to teach clinical pharmacology to pharmacy students? Why am I the Head of the Division of Pharmacology of the Faculty of Pharmacy at Rhodes University? Why am I an external examiner in pharmacology at a South African medical school?

As Harris Steinman is so fond of saying: "you be the judge".

Harris wrote on 1 May 2011 at 8:44 a.m.:

Part 1

I should thank Colin Levin for his multiple postings above for they expose how the true colours of Solal become apparent when fair critique is offered. I apologise to readers for the length of this posting.

It is hard to know how to make any sense of the "arguments" in Colin Levin’s numerous postings. In my view, his statements are rendered nonsensical when considered in the light of several well-reasoned deconstructions of Solal’s claims and arguments on this blog and on CamCheck.

Mr Levin's explanation of their website containing old and outdated information which they no longer support is accepted. But this too reflects on the company's ethical failure to remove such information as soon as it is no longer relevant or supported by them: consumers doing an internet search is led to this information and make decisions based on this out-dated information.

Of course, Mr Levin himself is not a doctor nor a CAM practitioner having had no formal training in these fields: I assume that he is guided by his team of Solal-employed “CAM experts”. He appears to not appreciate that I too have access to local and international CAM experts - although I don't have to pay them. Mr Levin does not appreciate that it’s irrelevant whether one has training or experience in the CAM "paradigm" for it is trumped by an understanding of what constitutes acceptable proof.

The irony (and surely greatly embarrassing) to Mr Levin are the following facts:

• Solal, in spite of claiming to be “CAM experts”, have had to retract some of their misleading claims, not proactively, but following challenges from ordinary folk (supposedly not even CAM experts!) that these claims cannot be substantiated.

• These objectors include among other, Nathan Geffen, Marcus Low, Kevin Charleston, Prof Roy Jobson, several journalists and myself; none of us are “CAM experts” by Mr Levin’s definition, yet our “lay” arguments were more truthful than Solal’s “CAM experts”.

• There are a number of postings on CAMCheck that deconstruct Solal product claims exposing them to be without substance, incorrect, inappropriate, fabricated, untenable or simply nonsense. The errors were not minor but brutally reflect on the expertise and competence on Solal’s “CAM experts” (and one can only imagine - to their great embarrassment). [1] [2] [3]

• The ASA, who are also not CAM trained, were able to compare the evidence supplied by Solal’s CAM experts and contrary arguments from complainants, and rule in several instances against Solal. [4] [5] To avoid possibly being sued for an incorrect ruling, the ASA must be sure that their decision is correct and defensible in terms of the Code of Advertising Practice.

Harris wrote on 1 May 2011 at 8:47 a.m.:

Part 2

• If non-CAM experts are able to poke holes in Solal’s claims with ease, is this indicative that Solal's CAM experts are inadequately trained? Indeed, there is no evidence that Brent Murphy is trained in CAMS: he is self-taught and has "experience" of making CAM formulations and selling CAMS. As a pharmacist however, he is not allowed to diagnose nor to initiate therapy (except for minor self-limiting conditions). His personal experience can therefore surely only be second hand observations or self-reported anecdotal information. It is not in the scope of practice of a pharmacist to follow up patients with physical examinations or further tests.

• Mr Levin states that “[T]exts we are using for this process are Natural Medicines Database . . .” but is unable to appreciate that our evidence against Solal’s claims are often attained from the same source, but used in the proper context!

For example, Mr Levin cites a number of products/ingredients and their claims, and argues that these claims are supported by Natural Medicines Database (NMCD) sometimes using the phrase “possibly effective” as sufficient evidence. Mr Levin illustrates Solal's use of the NMCD with the following example “. . . Natural Medicines Database (which Harris endorses) says the following: ‘Co-enzyme Q10: Possibly effective for HIV/AIDS . . .’”

As I will demonstrate below, this shows how liberal Solal are with the truth and how they (ab)use claims out of context. The NMCD definition of “Possibly effective” is:

“POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE = This product has some clinical evidence supporting its use for a specific indication; however, the evidence is limited by quantity, quality, or contradictory findings. Products rated “Possibly Effective” might be beneficial, but do not have enough high-quality evidence to recommend for most people.”[6]

The NMCD has a section called "clinical management series." The specific statement related to co-enzyme Q10's use in HIV/AIDS is: "More evidence is needed before coenzyme Q-10 can be recommended" and in the series' useful graphic summarising the use of natural products for HIV/AIDS -- coenzyme Q-10 is shown in a yellow block as "Likely Safe" and "Possibly Effective". Under the graphic, the legend states "Don't recommend using this product" for anything in the yellow block (which therefore applies to coenzyme Q-10). [7] Oops! Very embarrassing!

Harris wrote on 1 May 2011 at 8:49 a.m.:

Part 3

Furthermore, the NMCD states in their section on editorial principles and process that they; "[m]onitor and review new literature on a daily basis." This would mean that the NMCD have not found any updates to the two references they quote -- and Mr Levin uses for coenzyme Q10, from 1991 (20 years ago) and 1988 (23 years ago) respectively. Both references have Folkers K as the first author. When a particular research thrust is not followed up for two decades as seems to be the case here, it usually means that the research has reached a dead end and the results have no value.

Solal's website for Co-enzyme Q10 (accessed 30 April 2011) [8] still contains the out of date information (such as "Aids Related Complex" or ARC) conceded by Mr Levin as being out of date, despite his statement that the webpage should not have been available for download on their site. Is this still the out of date website that should not be accessible? The site states under "Pharmacological Action" and subheading "Immune System" that coenzyme Q10 could be a possible adjunct therapy for HIV-positive and ARC (sic) patients. Under another heading "Indications" (which means this is what the product is medically used for) and subheading "HIV/AIDS" the statement is made that coenzyme Q10 seems to improve immune function in people with HIV/AIDS! This is in stark contrast to the NMCD's "don't recommend this product". At least one can say that Solal are consistent in demonstrating their lack of rigour.

As for the 2002 call up being faulty, it contained "exemptions" for which there is no evidence that a full sitting of the MCC unanimously granted these in terms of the Medicines Act. The call up also provided for limited information to be provided and not full quality, safety or efficacy data as requred by the Act. This is where the fault lies. A court is surely not necessary for this to be determined, unless of course someone has taken it to a court of law to be challenged.

The call up was rescinded by the MCC on 14 August 2009 (as the Council itself apparently recognised that it was flawed), but the decision was not implemented, and has subsequently been appealed.

I and others are extremely careful about making statements that are indefensible or may be construed to be "defamatory". We know full well that our statements are factual, truthful and defensible even in a court of law. Our lawyers agree. I assert that Solal’s interpretation of our “defamatory” statements is as misconstrued as their misconstrued claims for many of their products.

Harris wrote on 1 May 2011 at 8:51 a.m.:

Part 4


[1] http://www.camcheck.co.za/anti-aging-pill/

[2] http://www.camcheck.co.za/distorting-evidence-a-south-african-example/

[3] http://www.camcheck.co.za/solal-too-much-sugar-claim-no-2/

[4] http://www.camcheck.co.za/asa-ruling-solal/

[5] http://www.camcheck.co.za/solal-claims-vitamin-d-is-as-effective-as-a-vaccine/

[6] http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/Content.aspx?cs=&s=ND&page=edprinciples&xsl=generic

[7] http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/ce/ceCourse.aspx?s=ND&cs=&pc=09%2D21&cec=1&pm=5

[8] http://www.solaltech.com/new/shop/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=36

Brent Murphy wrote on 1 May 2011 at 3:33 p.m.:

Dear Jean. Thank you for your comments. I promise we aim to be the best we can be. Regards Brent - SOLAL pharmacist.

Kevin Charleston wrote on 1 May 2011 at 11:17 p.m.:


Perhaps you want to get your [HTML_REMOVED]facts[HTML_REMOVED] straight?

In his response on this other article on 7 April 2011 at 1:09 p.m Brent Murphy explicitly says

As mentioned in my post at 5.01pm on 5 April, the 80% cutoff is based in a review here, with no co-morbidities! The co-morbidities was the vitamin D council info

And yet in your posting at 28 April 2011 at 10:46 p.m.

With regards to our statement that “90% of South Africans tested at the integrative medical centre were deficient in vitamin D”. These were in patients with two or more of the following co-morbidities: osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, an autoimmune disease, cancer, depression, chronic fatigue or chronic pain.

So what is it exactly? With or without co-morbidities? Or are you just cutting and pasting reams of crud without comprehension?

Also - do you have any evidence of the "fraudulent misrepresentation" that you claim of the ASA. The good folk at the ASA might take exception to the potential libel of such claims.

I am sure you also have evidence (other than the laughable stylometric testing, which appears to be as much pseudo-science as some of the other stuff you seem to be spouting) to support your bold assertion that Harris Steinman actually submitted claims to the ASA on behalf of others?

I am surprised that the "Financial and Legal Director" of SolalTech would be making such statements. You should know that not only do these open you up for libel suits - but should also understand the financial implications of same.

"Why don’t both of you actually state how many months of pharmacology you have both formally studied"

After the screed you have just posted Colin - perhaps it is only fair to demand your own 'pharmacology' qualifications?

Dr M L Cross wrote on 10 May 2011 at 9:30 p.m.:

This has become a personal attack against each other. I must commend you all, great humour. I found the entire blog entertaining. At the end of the day, vitamins are good for you, complimentary medicine compliments allopathic medicine, so let's stop all the bickering and make friends lads.

Nathan Geffen wrote on 11 May 2011 at 2:21 p.m.:

Dr Cross, I don't think it's that simple.

Undoubtedly vitamins and micronutrients generally consumed through eating as part of a balanced diet are not only good for you but vital for life.

Vitamin supplements are another matter. In some people, some of the time, they are indeed beneficial, but it is not clear that for the vast majority of people there is any need for chronic vitamin supplementation. And what precisely comprises a good micronutrient supplement is also unclear.

It's worth remembering that the 2008 Cochrane review on anti-oxidants found a slight but statistically significant excess mortality from vitamin A and E supplementation in well-run clinical trials.

In the meanwhile, a huge vitamin supplement industry flogs their products often misrepresenting the facts.

Diane wrote on 29 May 2011 at 2:51 p.m.:

I used to believe Solal's claims and took many of their supplements. After a while I noticed they did nothing for me. I wasted thousands of rand on useless pills and it makes me angry that they continue to make false claims in advertising.

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