Those who can make you believe absurdities, will make you commit atrocitie —Voltaire

Friday, July 27, 2007


What is ridicule?
Here are some examples of popular ridicule. Here two more examples of moreintellectual ridicule CHA. It is a very effective tool to use in exposing lies by showing them to be ridiculous, like no science can ever do. Some dissidents would greatly benefit from knowing that lies deserve no better. Doctors should join in too, it would show much intelligence on their part.

In Spanish
Lo ridiculo es la mejor defensa y ataque que tenemos. Utilizalo.
10 Razones Para Morir De SIDA

Thursday, July 26, 2007

An Enemy Of The People or The Flaming Jockstrap

What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs?

Coriolanus- 1,1,171
I don’t care much for debating the science behind HIV and AIDS. If HIV is a lie and AIDS a construct, then no amount of science can validate it or disqualify it, no matter how outlandish, convoluted or truly plausible the explanations may be, they are based on a banal, convenient and deadly lie.

It is enough to know one thing: official science on AIDS makes no sense, dissent science on AIDS does. Science serves here in as much as it exposes the mechanics by which the HIV=AIDS faction have turned it into the Whore Of Babylon. Again, I don’t even think that mechanism is science; it’s really just basic common sense. That’s what has been totally buried by the establishment and then subsequently the human race in general to support the big lie.

People need lies to shield them from the truth, which is usually too painful to face, and whilst most would feign horror at the thought of humans being killed off for profit, if truth be said, if it were also serving their need for denial, or maybe in some cases feeding their prejudices, they will follow that initial gasp of horror with just looking the other way and suggest watching a few episodes of Six Feet Under or Desperate Housewives for distraction.

In this world full of greedy and needy people, AIDS fills some very deep and well hidden needs perfectly, and no scientific theory can even begin to explain it, let alone challenge it, unless it is also going to be bold enough to adopt a warriors stance and shoot a few truth bullets into people’s thick heads as well, and some, thankfully, will not shy away from doing that either.

The HIV=AIDS=DEATH lie has now become very well established after so many years, it has become an absolute need people to cling on to. Belief in it is absolute and automatic, just like eating, defecating and reproducing. Every one needs it; save those who have decided that they don’t anymore and reject it because they have seen it as grotesque human sacrifice, cannibalism and necrophilia all rolled into one word: Genocide.

Should science and logic have been used to argue against the profiteering, genocide driven, ludicrous, science fiction the establishment and the mass media have used to explain AIDS? I think not, but still, it’s done now and I understand that maybe it was the only way at the time to fight back and try to inform people of the dangers that faced them in those horrible early days full of confusion, fear-mongering and general deceit, so we may as well just accept it and move on to look at the future from the present.

People have grown to need and even love the HIV virus; well I think that’s a fair assumption to make judging by the violent reactions most have at the mere suggestion that it may not even exist, or when you openly question the outrageous supernatural powers of destruction that are attributed to it. They will not listen when you explain to them that this virus has been invented and concocted more politically than scientifically. That it was sold to us much like the Catholic Church sold the idea of the “devil”, whilst for many scientists within the (almost dead) cancer research program at the end of the 70’s, like Gallo & Co. it became their “saviour”. They all jumped on board the AIDS bandwagon getting billions of dollars in funding to find “the virus that causes AIDS”, after Gallo had actually lied when he announced to the world that he had found it already. He never did.

People don’t want to listen to all this because the virus also served some very basic and well hidden needs for them too, apart from greed it also represents: God’s punishment for degenerates, and undesirables, as well as appeasing feelings of fear, shame and guilt about being happy and supportive of God’s fury. Then came the genocide in the form of rituals of human sacrifice that so many have already talked about more eloquently than I ever could. It’s now perhaps easier to see that the AIDS paradigm in its first days was never really about what kinds of science people would believe, but more about what people really need to justify the things they do themselves and to others, and if lies can be dressed up as science, and used for personal profit, or to avoid facing difficult issues, then better still. This is how everyone became involved in it, and why it has stood for so long.

People embraced willingly the banal HIV virus theory, and still defend it with vehemence, even when the vast majority do not have a clue about the kind of toxic, pseudo-scientific garbage that has held it up for so long. Believe me, the vast majority of people don’t have a bloody clue, no matter how intellectual and bright they think they are.

Take Germaine Greer’s article for The Guardian newspaper, where she is supposedly arguing her point of view regarding the literary ownership of the novel Frankenstein, attributed to Mary Shelly. She does not miss the opportunity to take a very lowbrow swipe at John Lauritsen’s monumental and courageous work on the AIDS dissent front, at a time where it took real valour to stand up and talk. She takes this dirty swipe at him in order to defend her opinion that Mary Shelly is the author of Frankenstein; which Lauritsen claims was really written by Shelly himself and not his wife Mary. Greer ends up making an ass of herself on all counts by basing her entire argument on the view that as John Lauritsen is an AIDS “dinialist”, therefore he is unworthy of even being alive, let alone having an opinion on anything.

It is evident from the start that she blatantly attempt to condition the readers responses by demonizing him, using a dirty and very below the belt tactic to try and disqualify Lauritsen’s argument, and in doing so reduces the argument about Mary Shelly’s alleged “stupidity” (her words here) to an irrelevance, After just reading the first paragraph it become immediately clear to me that it is her who should be up as candidate for that debate and no one else.

She also left me with the horrific impression that she is now an expert on “poppers” too, as she implicitly seems to disagree with the idea that their toxicity, and constant use, lead many gay men to develop Kaposi Sarcoma; a point I would love to hear her explain better, as unless I were totally sure that poppers did not cause KS, I would never use such an example as part of a manipulative disqualification of John Lauritsen, and of that well proven and universally accepted fact: that what caused KS, and possibly other life threatening conditions in gay men were poppers.

She also seems to think that John invented that theory. He is surely one of its original and strongest advocates, which was then, and still is now, held by everyone who knows and understands that a combination of factors really causes AIDS in gay men and not a convenient harmless retrovirus. John is also certainly the one who has written the best material on the subject, including a detailed history of what poppers are and how they ended up being pushed on gay men as a blueprint for health and butchness by the same gay media.

The only people, who reject the idea that poppers are highly toxic, are the ones who would like to see us all dead with purple blotches all over out faces and bodies, and those who use them. Is she simply a supporter of gay men poisoning themselves with daily regular doses of toxic fumes or does she use poppers herself? For as surprising as that would be to me, and many others, it would at least explain the toxic quality of her argument in that article.

Her obtuse ideas in general about what HIV dissent is are odious, because they are blatantly prejudicial. To those who know a thing or two about this issue it is nothing less than the usual cheap, propaganda-based claptrap, AIDS apologists’ use to defend the HIV fantasy, which of course is completely wrong. I think she should explain what all these points she makes to introduce her argument have to do with who wrote Frankenstein, because it doesn’t even seem like she has one. I don’t question her expertise, she is a valid voice among many others who give us valuable and interesting points of view on literature and other issues; it’s her integrity I question here.

Maybe she should stop reading poetry just for a while and revise her basic first and second grade science, especially if she pretends to enter that arena to trash someone like John Lauritsen, and in passing all of us who poopoo the HIV lie as we know quite a lot about things like: what does it means to have antibodies, and what are Kosch’s Postulates, and why they are still the only real valid and absolute standards we have in defining weather an agent is or not the cause of any given disease, even if the AIDS science-fiction-star-troupers say they are outdated. She obviously needs to if she is going to attack him on those grounds, which seems to me to be the basis of her argument.

It’s obvious she is the one who should shut her trap, and not talk (let alone try to be clever) about things she obviously knows nothing about. Maybe she should stick to what she does really well, which is talking exclusively about Romeo and Juliet; as simple straightforward, delightfully-flawed, perfectly-symmetrical and highly popular tragedy, seems to be more, her kind of thing. Maybe she should do with life's tragedies what she does with Shakespeare's ones: leave the more complex, dark and unpopular human tragedies like AIDS to others who understand them a little better.

Here gender politics are much less important than understanding and accepting that evil is an intrinsic, universal and personal human quality, and not a separate entity like us Catholics so conveniently are led to believe, that it serves many purposes, that we all decide to use it to attack others or to defend ourselves, when it is to our benefit, that we all deny vehemently having done so. Facing these truths helps us learn that evil can never be kept in check, confronted or defeated by anyone, especially not by cowards and hypocrites, like the Volumnias’ of this world, who in order to preserve their status and interests go around disguised in “intellectual drag” using the manipulative and delightfully simple language of Rosalind, who will always give it to you “as you like it” rather than how it really is.

She should listen to those who have proved through their actions that they know how to put their intelligence at the service of courage and integrity, because they really have these qualities, of those who know how to think for themselves and are not afraid to expose themselves to personal attack and ridicule by speaking out. These people never end up arrogantly believing that we are all as stupid as they are, and we are always grateful to them for sparing us all the embarrassment of having to remind them that they don’t know it all. Maybe she should stick to chatting on TV shows for pseudo-left-wing-wannabe-intellectuals like me, who used to enjoy hearing what she had to say many years ago.

She should visit one of our many websites and take a good look at the fact that John is not a solitary “voice howling in the wilderness” at all, and that there are many of us who agree with him, as well as hundreds more of us who openly defy the HIV lie daily by just being alive, and that we are ever swelling in numbers and more vocal. She can then go on and publicly demonize us all as well under the guise of literary critique.

Since when has hard-hitting truth, clarity, sound scientific argument and clear logic appealed to people? It must be since they were given to the likes of Germaine Greer to expound about them on TV; she makes it all so easy to understand and predictably entertaining. Maybe John should have tried burning his jockstrap whilst trying to save all those lives from being poisoned by AZT and taking a hell of a beating for it, maybe then it would have all made so much more sense to everyone, especially to her.

Looking at the vehemence and blind belief people like her adopt, makes it clear that it’s not the science itself that holds the AIDS paradigm from hell up; it’s people’s enormous need for lies that does. And people like her represent that in the eyes and minds of people like me. She is just one among many such personalities who will all eventually have to “eat humble pie” on this issue at some point in the future.

People like complex sounding garbage and predictable stupidity that can (through its sheer lack of logic) be very easily elevated to the status of “mystery based dogma”: one of the sacred pillars of any religion. The less sense it makes, the “holier” it becomes. So when non-believers (dissidents) are attacked and ostracised for not believing in the HIV virus, or those same survivors of this gross and poisonous lie are frowned upon, shut out and hated, pushed into a spectral existence because they have defied this virus-God and keep living on healthy without any medication for many years beyond their given date of expiry, it is people who project these hateful ideas and beliefs on them, and not necessarily scientists and doctors alone.

The doctors and scientists are like the priests or cardinals of this death-church, their economy and status benefits from the holy lie, so their need to keep it going is perhaps more understandable. It is the people’s need for our death that hurts most. It is true that we threaten to demolish their death-cult religion simply by living on, we shake their faith in the virus-God like no science can, and they need it so desperately to redeem them from their imagined sins. They need genocide and its horrific rituals to make them feel better about themselves.

Trying to convince people that the whole HIV theory is a lie has become a bizarre spectacle where anything can happen. They start praying to it with even more crazed fervour. They will cry “treason” and “heresy” and will happily light the faggots to burn as many heretics as it takes to defend the holy lie, now endowed with mystical life-saving powers. They even have a pseudo-holy language of moral rectitude and defence of the weak and afflicted to push ahead and feed their basic and well-hidden desire: to destroy all those who they secretly hate because they are not like them, or those they envy or feel are better, worse or unacceptable to them on whatever level that may be. They would all deny this of course.

Some say that people are hypnotised. That’s also true of many, however even taking that into account; at best people can come off as plain stupid, at worse pure evil, but innocent, never. I am also quite convinced that Oprah, Elton, Bono, Clinton, Gore, Stone, Gear and the rest of the AIDS clowns are not hypnotised at all. In my opinion they are profiteering under the guise of doing good.

The sad thing is that the real and logical (dissident) science opposing the HIV lie has unwittingly also helped establish the viral religion with even more strength, as it became the other side of the same coin, without which the necessary duality, or natural opposite force needed to understand and define the nature of all things, cannot exist for the vast majority of simple humans, who cannot have a God without having the devil too, so they turned real science and it’s advocates into the devil. All those who support them: murderous fornicating demos. We are the enemies of God. Does this sound familiar?

Both sides in very different ways have given people a complete lexicon to deify their basic need to worship and fear, love and hate, accept and reject, embrace or kill, create and destroy in the holy name of HIV & AIDS. Both sides have done this with very different intentions and purposes, which are plain to see now, and there for future generations and all eternity. Time will judge them both.

The most truly bizarre thing of all for me personally to accept is that the vast majority of people who take this line would call themselves left-wingers, politically speaking, and align themselves with progressive and caring social policies. I have always considered myself to be part of this same collective. The AIDS lie has exposed a whole new side I had never seen before, and has forced me to very gladly extricate myself from their midst.

The left is full of people who declare themselves to be convinced secularists, enlightened thinkers, intelligent atheists, humanists, liberals, caring politicians, deep thinking and highly aware artists, writers, philosophers and visionaries. They are all very progressive, free, deep, transcendental, caring and (of course) highly artistic, and though different qualities would apply to different people, they all seem share one essential quality they could never admit to, but that none-the-less, binds them together as a group. I used to think it was: profoundly humanitarian. Now I would define it kindly as: profoundly stupid.

They don’t even seem to realize that they have converted a harmless passenger retrovirus into God, they have adopted with faith-like blind belief the junk-science that supposedly proves it, they have used it all as a substitute for the religious idea of God, which they claim to have rejected through progressive and enlightened reason, they have endowed it and empowered it with the same destructive thirst, contradictions, banality, ignorant vengeful cruelty, stupidity and fear so characteristic of that same Judeo-Christian idea of God they claim to reject. Above all they feel secretly ashamed that they still need to worship him; they just changed his name from God to "science". They are unable to see that this garbage science, they still insist in believing in, is so bad, that in order to swallow it, they have had to deify it; that way it does not need to make any logical sense at all. Of course if this did not have such dire consequences for those being sacrificed in it’s name, it would be hilarious.

Through this sham, they are left exposed to be nothing more than this Gods tragic, lost, needy and very confused children, yearning for his lovingly vengeful hand to strike them down and punish them for it all. This image of themselves horrifies them, so they not only reject it but also try to violently suppress it, and like all things suppressed, it ends up projected with that same violence elsewhere, and at great cost to others… great human cost.

AIDS has left them all looking; at worse, like collaborators or perpetrators of pure evil. At best; like a bunch of stupid moronic clowns, who through direct action or activism, overrated talk show hosting, televised testing, a poison pen writing, a big mouth talking nonsense, singing crappy songs with horrendous lyrics (live or on record) at vulgar macro-concerts to raise money to save Africans by feeding them toxic medication and wrapping their huge over-active penises in condoms, or more classically through that pact of insidious silence so many have adopted to preserve their fragile ratings and popularity, thus leaving the door open for them to later be able to declare with crocodile tears in their eyes: we just didn’t know.

I have one question for them all: How much junk-science piled on dead bodies from toxic medicine, lies, stupidity and self-deceit does the word “pathetic” need to hold it up long and high enough for them to see it, and themselves reflected in it’s mirror, or hear their names echoed in it’s reverberating sound?


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Three Unique Femail Voices & Stlyes




Vintage Clips

Corelli & Simionato. White hot! Who said these people could not act? Classic.

Leontyne Price Aida.

Otto e Mezzo Federico Fellini

The Perfect Metaphore For A Man's Life

Have you sat and really watched this film?
Really watched it?
If not, get it.
See it.

There is something about this film's hauntingly beautiful images that go straight through to the heart, they jolt it still even forty years on. The sheer simplicity and elegance of the directing, acting and design all combine to creat the most stylish, sharp and yet, at the same time, possibly one of the most tender films ever made.

Here are some central clips from this wonderful film, but don't worry there is no story to give away.








The Truth

The End

Celia Farber-The HIV Optimists.

In Italiano: Gli Ottimisti Del HIV

The HIV Optimists
by Celia Farber

They keep appearing in ever-greater numbers on chat boards, websites, cafés, and off-the-grid support groups in people’s homes–all the traditional gathering places for dissenters. They gather where they cannot be blocked, or harmed, or fired, or deleted, or told they don’t exist, or that they are mad.

They are called “AIDS denialists.” These are people who deny and defy the belief of the mainstream medical community that HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS and death. They say they are living proof that HIV-positive people can have long, healthy lives without taking anti-HIV drugs.

The “denialists” say the HIV test is problematic and does not clearly establish a link between HIV and AIDS. Those who test positive for HIV are encouraged to take toxic drugs with serious side effects; those who do not comply face discrimination.

Nevertheless, the majority of scientists involved in AIDS research and the development of AIDS pharmaceuticals continue to treat such ideas as dangerous. The AIDS establishment says the dissenters’ message undermines safe sex practices and dissuades people from taking lifesaving medications.

A rift that began over 20 years ago has now developed into an international battle of two seemingly irreconcilable belief systems: Is HIV deadly or harmless?

A Pharmaceutical Disconnect

It is only in recent years that AIDS activists have relaxed their admonition that all HIV-positive people must go on medications as soon as they test positive or shortly thereafter. In the early years of AIDS, the drug of choice was AZT, a potent chemotherapy that some critics say hastened the demise of those who were placed on initial very high doses. AZT terminates DNA replication and decimates the cellular system, creating, like AIDS itself, immune failure. Side effects of the drugs ranged from the merely unpleasant (headaches, vomiting, bloating) to the seriously toxic (neutropenia, hematopoietic toxicity, anemia).

The drug fell from common use in the mid-1990s, and multidrug cocktail therapy displaced AZT as the mainstream treatment of choice. After a period of intense marketing of antiretrovirals (drugs that purport to attack the HIV retrovirus), the drugs are no longer universally seen as lifesaving.

A paper published in 2006 in The Lancet reported the results of a large study that tracked 22,000 HIV-positive people between 1995 and 2003. It found that the drug therapy they received, known as HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) did not “translate into a decrease in mortality.”

Weak Links

Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2006 found an uncertain link between HIV levels and decline in CD4 cells. Conventional AIDS theory is that HIV targets and kills CD4 cells (T helper cells, a type of white blood cell active in the immune system), and low CD4 counts are a marker for AIDS.

The JAMA study found, however, that HIV-positive status does not correlate strongly with or cause depleted CD4 counts. A separate study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2006 found that even HIV-negative people can have low-level CD4 cell counts, making CD4 levels even less of a conclusive marker for AIDS.

The science behind the HIV antibody test is also being questioned.

Testing Positive Isn’t

Because HIV was co-discovered in competing labs in France and the US, the test that we use to detect it is itself politicized. Critics of the test point out that HIV has never been fully purified, thereby lacking a gold standard (itself), which is the only way to create a dependable test.

HIV-antibody tests carry disclaimers in the package insert, addressing “sensitivity and specificity” that read: “At present there is no recognized standard for establishing the presence or absence of antibodies to HIV 1 and HIV 2 in human blood.”

Tests inserts concede that neither the ELISA nor most Western Blot HIV tests are FDA-approved to diagnose HIV infection. In addition, more than 70 non-HIV-related blood conditions can cause a false reaction, and there is no consistency from laboratory to laboratory in interpreting the tests. There are at least 10 different standards used in different countries and laboratories to gauge the antibodies (blood proteins) as either positive, negative, or indeterminate. The tests pick up a broad spectrum of antigenic stressors (foreign substances that induce the production of antibodies), including toxins and microbial bacteria.

“When you look at all the studies, the HIV test is not a test for HIV,” says Stephen Davis, author of Wrongful Death: The AIDS Trial ( Publishing, 2006) and a former Arizona state senator who has set up a ring of websites for people who are HIV-positive, healthy, and not taking HIV drugs (see “It is a test that is supposed to find antibodies to HIV, but every single one of the proteins used in the test kits have been proven to be associated with something other than HIV.”

Despite new studies and the mounting anecdotal evidence that belies the official theory, the AIDS establishment continues to insist that HIV causes AIDS and only antiretroviral drugs can save lives.

Why aren’t We Dying?

The burgeoning survivors movement, however, says it is living proof that HIV is not deadly–not only because the survivors aren’t dead, but because they aren’t sick at all, and many have waited a very long time for their death sentences, more than 20 years in some cases.

In 1984 the latency period between HIV infection and death was said to be as short as six months. Now most researchers believe the period between HIV infection and AIDS is about nine to 10 years, while the period between the first appearance of AIDS symptoms and death is estimated at 9.2 months. The period between initial HIV infection and death may be, according to some sources, much longer than the AIDS establishment will acknowledge.

“I don’t believe there is any way to know how many [survivors] there are,” says Davis. “More and more people are questioning their own diagnosis and the entire issue of whether HIV causes AIDS.” Over the past two years he has been collecting narratives and testimonies and helping people connect and tell their stories in a non-intimidating venue.

The familiar AIDS story revolves around the drama of infection with HIV, followed by illness, drugs, and a kind of pharmaceutical redemption only obtained by coming to terms with HIV. But the stories Davis has collected have a whole different arc: they are about individuals who, for a variety of reasons, came out of the AIDS-HIV paradigm, having realized that the viral antibodies did not spell doom. What they found instead was that the HIV/AIDS belief system closed in on them.

Real Survivors

Here’s one of those stories: “Frank A.” is a Canadian hemophiliac in his mid-thirties who tested positive for HIV in 1987. Although he has never experienced a single symptom of the more than 30 clinical conditions now associated with HIV infection, he cannot escape the fear, stigma, and shunning that follow those who defy the AIDS belief system.

“The media has portrayed HIV-positives as something horrible and contagious and as killers. I feel like it’s me against the world–a complete nightmare from hell. It’s like having a big red X painted on your forehead,” says Frank. “What I have seen over the years is that most other HIV-positives don’t question the doctor’s orders. Most of them just took the drugs they were handed, and they died. I truly believe that arguing with my doctor has saved my life.”

A group of long-term HIV-positive people who have remained healthy while staying off the drugs have organized monthly support meetings in New York. They call their group Living Proof. Most spoke to me of being shunned, professionally persecuted, and raged against when they revealed to friends, family, and colleagues they did not think HIV would kill them.

“It’s like being a ghost,” one man said, 10 years positive and healthy, as we sat in a park in Chelsea, where nobody could hear the conversation. “We don’t officially exist. Nobody can see us or hear us. We make [the AIDS establishment] furious. We make our own loved ones furious. In the end, you learn not to talk about it.”

“It’s a lonely way to live,” said another man who’s been HIV-positive and healthy–while refusing antiretrovirals–for 13 years. “If I followed the party line I would have a universe of support at my fingertips, a whole infrastructure.” He says that for those who have just been given an HIV-positive diagnosis, “just the act of seeing somebody like me who is healthy and hasn’t done the meds is very reassuring. The first thing I tell them is, ‘You’re going to be fine.’”

The Damage Done

“It really is heartbreaking to realize what we have put these innocent people through,” reflects Davis. “Beyond the scientific debates, as important as they are…this really is a human issue.”

To read more about this complex and controversial subject, Celia Farber recommends “Rethinking AIDS: The group for the scientific reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis” at

Celia Farber’s writings have appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, Salon and elsewhere. Her book Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS (Melville House Press) was published in 2006.

Source: alive #296, June 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sins Of Omission: The AZT Scandal

En Espanol

By Celia Farber
Spin Nov. 1989

On a cold January day in 1987, inside one of the brightly-lit meeting rooms of the monstrous FDA building, a panel of 11 top Aids doctors pondered a very difficult decision. They had been asked by the FDA to consider giving lightning-quick approval to a highly toxic drug about which there was very little information. Clinically called Zidovudine, but nicknamed AZT after its components, the drug was said to have shown a dramatic effect on the survival of Aids patients. The study that had brought the panel together had set the medical community abuzz. It was the first flicker of hope - people were dying much faster on the placebo than on the drug.

But there were tremendous concerns about the new drug. It had actually been developed a quarter of a century earlier as a cancer chemotherapy, but was shelved and forgotten because it was so toxic, very expensive to produce, and totally ineffective against cancer. Powerful, but unspecific, the drug was not selective in its cell destruction.

Drug companies around the world were sifting through hundreds of compounds in the race to find a cure, or at least a treatment, for Aids. Burroughs Wellcome, a subsidiary of Wellcome, a British drug company, emerged as the winner. By chance, they sent the failed cancer drug, then known as Compound S, to the National Cancer Institute along with many others to see if it could slay the Aids dragon, HIV. In the test tube at least, it did.

At the meeting, there was a lot of uncertainty and discomfort with AZT. The doctors who had been consulted knew that the study was flawed and that the long-range effects were completely unknown. But the public was almost literally baying at the door. Understandably, there was immense pressure on the FDA to approve AZT even more quickly than they had approved thalidomide in the mid-60s, which ended up causing drastic birth defects.

Everybody was worried about this one. To approve it, said Ellen Cooper, an FDA director, would represent a "significant and potentially dangerous departure from our normal toxicology requirements."

Just before approving the drug, one doctor on the panel, Calvin Kunin, summed up their dilemma. "On the one hand," he said, "to deny a drug which decreases mortality in a population such as this would be inappropriate. On the other hand, to use this drug widely, for areas where efficacy has not been demonstrated, with a potentially toxic agent, might be disastrous."

"We do not know what will happen a year from now," said panel chairman Dr. Itzhak Brook. "The data is just too premature, and the statistics are not really well done. The drug could actually be detrimental." A little later, he said he was also "struck by the facts that AZT does not stop deaths. Even those who were switched to AZT still kept dying."

"I agree with you," answered another panel member, "There are so many unknowns. Once a drug is approved there is no telling how it could be abused. There's no going back."

Burroughs Wellcome reassured the panel that they would provide detailed two-year follow-up data, and that they would not let the drug get out of its intended parameters: as a stopgap measure for very sick patients.

Dr. Brook was not won over by the promise. "If we approve it today, there will not be much data. There will be a promise of data," he predicted, "but then the production of data will be hampered." Brook's vote was the only one cast against approval.

'There was not enough data, not enough follow-up," Brook recalls. "Many of the questions we asked the company were answered by, 'We have not analyzed the data yet,' or 'We do not know.' I felt that there was some promising data, but I was very worried about the price being paid for it. The side effects were so very severe. It was chemotherapy. Patients were going to need blood transfusions. That's very serious.

"The committee was tending to agree with me," says Brook, "that we should wait a little bit, be more cautious. But once the FDA realized we were intending to reject it, they applied political pressure. At about 4 p.m., the head of the FDA's Center for Drugs and Biologics asked permission to speak, which is extremely unusual. Usually they leave us alone. But he said to us, 'Look, if you approve the drug, we can assure you that we will work together with Burroughs Wellcome and make sure the drug is given to the right people.' It was like saying 'please do it.'"

Brad Stone, FDA press officer, was at that meeting. He says he doesn't recall that particular speech, but that there is nothing 'unusual" about FDA officials making such speeches at advisory meetings. "The people in that meeting approved the drug because the data the company had produced proved it was prolonging life. Sure it was toxic, but they concluded that the benefits clearly outweighed the risks."

The meeting ended. AZT, which several members of the panel still felt uncomfortable with and feared could be a time bomb, was approved.

Flash forward: August 17, 1989. Newspapers across America banner-headlined that AZT had been "proven to be effective in HIV antibody-positive, asymptomatic and early ARC patients," even through one of the panel's main concerns was that the drug should only be used in a last-case scenario for critically-ill AIDS patients, due to the drug's extreme toxicity. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was now pushing to expand prescription.

The FDA's traditional concern had been thrown to the wind. Already the drug had spread to 60 countries and an estimated 20.000 people. Not only had no new evidence allayed the initial concerns of the panel, but the follow-up data, as Dr. Brook predicted, had fallen by the waysite. The beneficial effects of the drug had been proven to be temporary. The toxicity, however stayed the same.

The majority of those in the AIDS afflicted and medical communities held the drug up as the first breakthrough on AIDS. For better or worse, AZT had been approved faster than any drug in FDA history, and activists considered it a victory. The price paid for the victory, however, was that almost all government drug trials, from then on, focused on AZT - while over 100 other promising drugs were left uninvestigated.

Burroughs Wellcome stock went through the roof when the announcement was made. At a price of $8,000 per patient per year (not including blood work and transfusions), AZT is the most expensive drug ever marketed. Burroughs Wellcome's gross profits for next year are estimated at $230 million. Stock market analysts predict that Burroughs Wellcome may be selling as much as $2 billion worth of AZT, under the brand name Retrovir, each year by the mid-1990s - matching Burroughs Wellcome's total sales for all its products last year.

AZT is the only antiretroviral drug that has received FDA approval for treatment of AIDS since the epidemic began 10 years ago, and the decision to approve it was based on a single study that has long been declared invalid.

The study was intended to be a "double-blind placebo-controlled study," the only kind of study that can effectively prove whether or not a drug works. In such a study, neither patient nor doctor is supposed to know if the patient is getting the drug or a placebo. In the case of AZT, the study became unblinded on all sides, after just a few weeks.

Both sides of the contributed to the unblinding. It became obvious to doctors who was getting what because AZT causes such severe side effects that AIDS per se does not. Furthermore, a routine blood count known as CMV, which clearly shows who is on the drug and who is not, wasn't whited out in the reports. Both of these facts were accepted and confirmed by both the FDA and Burroughs Wellcome, who conducted the study.

Many of the patients who were in the trial admitted that they had analyzed their capsules to find out whether they were getting the drug. If they weren't, some bought the drug on the underground market. Also, the pills were supposed to be indistinguishable by taste, but they were not. Although this was corrected early on, the damage was already done. There were also reports that patients were pooling pills out solidarity to each other. The study was so severely flawed that its conclusions must be considered, by the most basic scientific standards, unproven.

The most serious problem with the original study, however, is that it was never completed. Seventeen weeks in the study, when more patients had died in the placebo group, the study was stopped short, and all subjects were put on AZT, no scientific study can ever be conducted to prove unequivocally whether AZT does prolong life.

Dr. Brook, who voted against approval, warned at the time that AZT, being the only drug available for doctors to prescribe to AIDS patients, would probably have a runaway effect. Approving it prematurely, he said, would be like "letting the genie out of the bottle."

Brook pointed out that since the drug is a form of chemotherapy, it should only be prescribed by doctors who have experience with chemotherapeutic drugs. Because of the most severe toxic effects of AZT - cell depletion of the bone marrow - patients would need frequent blood transfusions. As it happened, AZT was rampantly prescribed as soon as it was released, way beyond its purported parameters. The worst-case scenario had come true: Doctors interviewed by the New York Times later in 1987 revealed that they were already giving AZT to healthy people who had tested positive for antibodies to HIV.

The FDA's function is to weigh a drug's efficacy against its potential hazards. The equation is simple and obvious: A drug must unquestionably repair more than it damages, otherwise the drug itself may cause more harm than the disease it is supposed to fight. Exactly what many doctors and scientists fear is happening with AZT.

AZT was singled out among hundreds of compounds when Dr. Sam Broder, the head of the National Cancer Institutes (NCI), found that it "inhibited HIV viral replication in vitro." AIDS is considered a condition of immune suppression caused by the HIV virus replicating and eating its way into T-4 cells, which are essential to the immune system. HIV is a retrovirus which contains an enzyme called reverse transcriptase that converts viral RNA to DNA. AZT was thought to work by interrupting this DNA synthesis, thus stopping further replication of the virus.

While it was always known that the drug was exceedingly toxic, the first study concluded that 'the risk/benefits ratio was in favour of the patient."

In the study that won FDA approval for AZT, the one fact that swayed the panel of judges was that the AZT group outlived the placebo group by what appeared to be a landslide. The ace card of the study, the one that cancelled out the issue of the drug's enormous toxicity, was that 19 persons had died in the placebo group and only one in the AZT group. The AZT recipients were also showing a lower incidence of opportunistic infections.

While the data staggered the panel that approved the drug, other scientists insisted that it meant nothing - because it was so shabbily gathered, and because of the unblinding. Shortly after the study was stopped, the death rate accelerated in the AZT group. "There was no great difference after a while," says Dr. Brook, "between the treated and the untreated group."

"That study was so sloppily done that it really didn't mean much," says Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, a leading New York City AIDS doctor.

Dr. Harvey Bialy, scientific editor of the journal Biotechnology, is stunned by the low quality of science surrounding AIDS research. When asked if he had seen any evidence of the claims made for AZT, that it "prolongs life" in AIDS patients, Bialy said, "No. I have not seen a published study that is rigorously done, analyzed and objectively reported."

Bialy, who is also a molecular biologist, is horrified by the widespread use of AZT, not just because it is toxic, but because, he insists, the claims its widespread use are based upon are false. "I can't see how this drug could be doing anything other than making people very sick," he says.

The scientific facts about AZT and AIDS are indeed astonishing. Most ironically, the drug has been found to accelerate the very process it was said to prevent: the loss of T-4 cells.

"Undeniably, AZT kills T-4 cells [white blood cells vital to the immune system]" says Bialy. "No one can argue with that. AZT is a chain-terminating nucleotide, which means that it stops DNA replication. It seeks out any cell that is engaged in DNA replication and kills it. The place where most of this replication is taking place is the bone marrow. That's why the most common and severe side effect of the drug is bone marrow toxicity. That is why they [patients] need blood transfusions."

AZT has been aggressively and repeatedly marketed as a drug that prolongs survival in AIDS patients because it stops the HIV virus from replicating and spreading to healthy cells. But, says Bialy: "There is no good evidence that HIV actively replicates in a person with AIDS, and if there's isn't much HIV replication in a person with AIDS, and if there isn't much HIV replication to stop, it's mostly killing healthy cells."

University of California at Berkeley scientist Dr. Peter Duesberg drew the same conclusion in a paper published in the Proceedings, the journal of the National Academy of Sciences. Duesberg, whose paper addressed his contention that HIV is not a sufficient cause for AIDS, wrote: "Even if HIV were to cause AIDS, it would hardly be legitimate target for AZT therapy, because in 70 to 100 percent of antibody positive persons, proviral DNA is not detectable... and its biosynthesis has never been observed."

As a chemotherapeutic drug, explained Duesberg, explained Duesberg, AZT "kills dividing blood cells and other cells," and is thus "directly immunosuppressive."

"The cell is almost a million-fold bigger target than the virus, so the cell will be much, much more sensitive," says Duesberg. "Only very few cells, about one in 10,000 are actively making the virus containing DNA, so you must kill incredibly large numbers of cells to inhibit the virus. This kind of treatment could only theoretically help if you have a massive infection, which is not the case with AIDS. Meanwhile, they're giving this drug that ends up killing millions of lymphocytes [white blood cells]. It's beyond me how that could possibly be beneficial."

"It doesn't really kill them," Burroughs Wellcome scientists Sandra Lehrman argues. "You don't necessarily have to destroy the cell, you can just change the function of it. Furthermore, while the early data said that the only very few cells were infected, new data says that there may be more cells infected. We have more sensitive detection techniques now."

"Changes their function? From what - functioning to not functioning? Another example of mediocre science," says Bialy. "The 'sensitive detection technique' to which Dr. Lehrman refers, PCR, is a notoriously unreliable one upon which to base quantitative conclusions."

When specific questions about the alleged mechanisms of AZT are asked, the answers are long, contradictory, and riddled with unknowns. Every scientific point raised about the drug is eventually answered with the blanket response, "The drug is not perfect, but it's all we have right now." About the depletion of T-4 cells and other white cells, Lehrman says, "We don't know why T-4 cells go up at first, and then go down. That is one of the drug mechanisms that we are trying to understand."

When promoters of AZT are pressed on key scientific points, whether at the NIH, FDA, Burroughs Wellcome or an AIDS organization, they often become angry. The idea that the drug is "doing something," even though this is invariably followed with irritable admissions that there are "mechanisms about the drug and disease we don't understand," is desperately clung to. It is as if, in the eye of the AIDS storm, the official, government-agency sanctioned position is immunized against critique. Skepticism and challenge, so essential to scientific endeavour, is not welcome in the AZT debate, where it is arguably needed more than anywhere else.

The toxic effects of AZT, particularly bone marrow suppression and anemia, are so severe that up to 50 percent of all AIDS and ARC patients cannot tolerate it and have to be taken off it. In the approval letter that Burroughs Wellcome sent to the FDA, all of 50 additional side effects of AZT, aside from the most common ones, were listed. These included: loss of mental acuity, muscle spasms, rectal bleeding and tremors.

Anemia one of AZT's common side effects, is the depletion of red blood cells, and according to Duesberg, "Red blood cells are the one thing you cannot do without. Without red cells, you cannot pick up oxygen."

Fred, a person with AIDS, was put on AZT and suffered such severe anemia from the drug he had to be taken off it. In an interview in the AIDS handbook Surviving and Thriving With AIDS, he described what anemia feels like to the editor Michael Callen: "I live in a studio and my bathroom is a mere five-step walk from my be. I would just lie there for two hours; I couldn't get up to take those five steps. When I was taken to the hospital, I had to have someone come over to dress me. It's that kind of severe fatigue... The quality of my life was pitiful... I've never felt so bad... I stopped the AZT and the mental confusion, the headaches, the pains in the neck, the nausea, all disappeared within a 24-hour period."

"I feel very good at this point," Fred went on. "I feel like the quality of my life was a disaster two weeks ago. And it really was causing a great amount of fear in me, to the point where I was taking sleeping pills to calm down. I was so worried. I would totally lose track of what I was saying in the middle of a sentence. I would lose my directions on the street."

"Many AIDS patients are anemic even before they receive the drug." Says Burroughs Wellcome's Dr. Lehrman, "because HIV itself can infect the bone marrow and cause anemia."

This argument betrays a bizarre reasoning. If AIDS patients are already burdened with the problems such as immune suppression, bone marrow toxicity and anemia, is compounding these problems an improvement?

"Yes AZT is a form of chemotherapy." Says the man who invented the compound a quarter-century ago, Jerome Horowitz. "It is cytotoxic, and as such, it causes bone marrow toxicity and anemia. There are problems with the drug. It's not perfect. But I don't think anybody would agree that AZT is of no use. People can holler from now until doomsday that it is toxic, but you have to go with the results."

The results, finally and ironically, are what damns AZT. Several studies on the clinical effects of AZT - including the one that Burroughs Wellcome's approval was based on - have drawn the same conclusion: that AZT is effective for a few months, but that its effect drops of sharply after that. Even the original AZT study showed that T-4 cells went up for a while and then plummeted. HIV levels went down, and then came back up. This fact was well-known when the advisory panel voted for approval. As panel member Dr. Stanley Lemon said in the meeting, "I am left with the nagging thought after seeing several of these slides, that after 16 to 24 weeks - 12 to 16 weeks, I guess - the effect seems to be declining."

A follow-up meeting, two years after the original Burroughs Wellcome study, was scheduled to discuss the long range effects of AZT, and the survival statistics. As one doctor present at that meeting in May 1988 recall, "They hadn't followed up the study. Anything that looked beneficial was gone within half a year. All they had were some survival statistics averaging 44 weeks. The p24 didn't pan out and there was no persistent improvement in the T-4 cells."

HIV levels in the blood are measured by an antigen called p24. Burroughs Wellcome made the claim that AZT lowered this level, that is, lowered the amount of HIV in the blood. At the first FDA meeting, Burroughs Wellcome emphasized how the drug had "lowered" the p24 levels; at the follow-up meeting, they didn't mention it.

As that meeting was winding down, Dr. Michael Lange, head of the AIDS program at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, spoke up about this. "The claim of AZT is made on the fact that it is supposed to have an antiviral effect," he said to Burroughs Wellcome, "and on this we have seen no data at all... Since there is a report in the Lancet [a leading British medical journal] that after 20 weeks or so, in many patients p24 came back, do you have any data on that?"

They didn't.

"What counts is the bottom line," one of the scientists representing Burroughs Wellcome summed up, "the survival, the neurologic function, the absence of progression and the quality of life, all of which are better. Whether you call it better because of some antiviral effect, or some other antibacterial effect, they are still better."

Dr. Lange suggested that the drug may be effective the same way a simple anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin, is effective. An inexpensive, nontoxic drug called Indomecithin, he pointed out, might serve the same function, without the devastating side effects.

One leading AIDS researcher, who was part of the FDA approval process, says today: "Does AZT do anything? Yes, it does. But the evidence that it does something against HIV is really not there."

"There have always been drugs that we use without knowing exactly how they work," says Nobel Prize winner Walter Gilbert. "The really important thing to look at is the clinical effect. Is the drug helping or isn't it?"

"I'm living proof that AZT works," says one person with ARC on AZT. "I've been on it for two years now, and I'm certainly healthier than I was two years ago. It's not a cure-all, it's not a perfect drug, but it is effective. It's slowing down the progression of the disease."

"Sometimes I feel like swallowing Drano," says another. "I mean, sometimes I have problems swallowing. I just don't like the idea of taking something that foreign to my body. But every six hours, I've got to swallow it. Until something better comes along, this is what is available to me."

"I am absolutely convinced that people enjoy a better quality of life and survive longer who do not take AZT," says Gene Fedorko, President of Health Education AIDS Liaison (HEAL). "I think it's horrible the way people are bullied by their doctors to take the drug. We get people coming to us shaking and crying because their doctors said they'll die if they don't take AZT. That is an absolute lie." Fedorko has drawn his conclusion from years of listening to the stories of people struggling to survive AIDS at HEAL's weekly support group.

"I wouldn't take AZT if you paid me," says Michael Callen, cofounder of New York City's PWA coalition, Community Research Initiative, and editor of several AIDS journals. Callen has survived AIDS for over seven years without the help of AZT. "I've gotten the shit kicked out me for saying this, but I think using AZT is like aiming a thermonuclear warhead at a mosquito. The overwhelming majority of long-term survivors I've known have chosen not to take AZT."

The last surviving patient from the original AZT trial, according to Burroughs Wellcome, died recently. When he died, he had been on AZT for three and one-half years. He was the longest surviving AZT recipient. The longest surviving AIDS patient overall, not on AZT, has lived for eight and one-half years.

An informal study of long-term survivors of AIDS followed 24 long-term survivors, all of whom had survived AIDS more than six years. Only one of them had recently begun taking AZT.

In the early days, AZT was said to extend lives. In actual fact, there is simply no solid evidence that AZT prolongs life.

"I think AZT does prolong life in most people," says Dr. Bruce Montgomery of the State University of New York City at Stony Brook, who is completing a study on AZT. "There are not very many long-tern survivors, and we really don't know why they survive. It could be luck. But most people are not so lucky."

"AZT does seem to help many patients," says Dr. Bernard Bahari, a New York City AIDS physician and researcher, "but it's very hard to determine whether it actually prolongs life."

"Many of the patients I see choose not to take AZT," says Dr. Don Abrams of San Francisco General Hospital. "I've been impressed that survival and lifespan are increasing for all people with AIDS. I think it has a lot to do with aerosolized Pentamidine [a drug that treats pneumocystis carinii pneumonia]. There's also the so-called plague effect, the fact that people get stronger and stronger when a disease hits a population. The patients I see today are not as fragile as the early patients were."

"Whether you live or die with AIDS is a function of how well your doctor treats you, not of AZT," says Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, one of New York's City's first and most reputable AIDS doctor, whose patients include many long-term survivors, although he has never prescribed AZT. Sonnabend was one of the first to make the simple observation that AIDS patients should be treated for their diseases, not just for their HIV infection.

Several studies have concluded that AZT has no effect on the two most common opportunistic AIDS infections, Pneumocystic Carinii Pneumonia (PCP) and Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS). The overwhelming majority of AIDS patients die of PCP, for which there has been an effective treatment for decades. This year, the FDA finally approved aerosolized Pentamidine for AIDS. A recent Memorial Sloan Kettering study concluded the following: By 15 months, 80% of people on AZT not receiving Pentamidine had a recurring episode. "All those deaths in the AZT study were treatable," Sonnabend says. "They weren't deaths from AIDS, they were deaths from treatable conditions. They didn't even do autopsies for that study. What kind of faith can one have in these people?"

"If there's any resistance to AZT in the general public at all, it's within the gay community of New York," says the doctor close to the FDA approval, who asked to remain anonymous. "The rest of the country has been brainwashed into thinking this drug really does that much. The data has all been manipulated by people who have a lot vested in AZT."

"If AIDS were not the popular disease that it is - the money-making and career-making machine - these people could not get away with that kind of shoddy science," says Bialy. "In all of my years in science I have never seen anything this atrocious." When asked if he thought it was at all possible that people have been killed as a result of AZT poisoning rather then AIDS he answered: "It's more than possible."

August 17, 1989: The government has announced that 1.4 million healthy, HIV antibody-positive Americans could "benefit" from taking AZT, even though they show no symptoms of disease. New studies have "proven" that AZT is effective in stopping the progression of AIDS in asymptomatic and early ARC cases. Dr. Fauci, the head of NIH, proudly announced that a trial that has been going on for "two years" had "clearly shown" that early intervention will keep AIDS at bay. Anyone who has antibodies to HIV and less than 500 T-4 cells should start taking AZT at once, he said. That is approximately 650,000 people. 1.4 million Americans are assumed HIV antibody-positive, and eventually all of them may need to take AZT so they don't get sick, Fauci contended.

The leading newspapers didn't seem to think it unusual that there was no existing copy of the study, but rather a breezy two-pages press release from the NIH. When SPIN called the NIH asking for a copy of the study, we were told that it was "still being written." We asked a few questions about the numbers. According to the press release, 3,200 early AARC and asymptomatic patients were devided into two groups, one AZT and one placebo, and followed for two years. The two groups were distinguished by T-4 cell counts; one group had less than 500, the other more than 500. These two were then divided into three groups each: high-dose AZT, low-dose AZT, and placebo. In the group with more than 500 T-4 cells, AZT had no effect. In the other group, it was concluded that low-dose AZT was the most effective, followed by high-dose. All in all, 36 out of 900 developed AIDS in the two AZT groups combined, and 38 out of 450 in the placebo group. "HIV-positive patients are twice as likely to get AIDS if they don't take AZT," the press declared.

However, the figures are vastly misleading. When we asked how many patients were actually enrolled for a full two years, the NIH said they did not know, but that the average time of participation was one year, not two.

"It's terribly dishonest the way they portrayed those numbers," says Dr. Sonnabend. "If there were 60 people in the trial those numbers would mean something, but if you calculate what the percentage is out of 3,200, the difference becomes minute between the two groups. It's nothing. It's hit or miss, and they make it look like it's terribly significant."

The study boasted that AZT is much more effective and less toxic at one-third the dosage than has been used for three years. That's the good news. The bad news is that thousands have already been walloped with 1,500 milligrams of AZT and possibly even died of toxic poisoning - and now we're hearing that one third of the dose would have done?

With all that remains so uncertain about the effects of AZT, it seems criminal to advocate expanding its usage to healthy people, particularly since only a minuscule percentage of the HIV-infected population have actually developed ARC or AIDS.

Burroughs Wellcome has already launched testing of AZT in asymptomatic hospital workers, pregnant women, and in children, who are getting liquid AZT. The liquid is left over from an aborted trial, and given to the children because they can mix it with water - children don't like to swallow pills. It has also been proposed that AZT be given to people who do not yet even test positive for HIV antibodies, but are "at risk."

"I'm convinced that if you gave AZT to a perfectly healthy athlete," says Fedorko, "he would be dead in five years."

In December 1988, the Lancet published a study that Burroughs Wellcome and the NIH do not include in their press kits. It was more expansive than the original AZT study and followed patients longer. It was not conducted in the United States, but in France, at the Claude Bernard Hospital in Paris, and concluded the same thing about AZT that Burroughs Wellcome's study did, except Burroughs Wellcome called their results "overwhelmingly positive," and the French doctors called theirs "disappointing." The French study found, once again, that AZT was too toxic for most to tolerate, had no lasting effect on HIV blood levels, and left the patients with fewer T-4 cells than they started with. Although they noticed a clinical improvement at first, they concluded that "by six months, these values had returned to their pretreatment levels and several opportunistic infections, malignancies and deaths occurred."

"Thus the benefits of AZT are limited to a few months for ARC and AIDS patients," the Fench team concluded. After a few months, the study found, AZT was completely ineffective.

The news that AZT will soon be prescribed to asymptomatic people has left many leading AIDS doctors dumbfounded and furious. Every doctor and scientist I asked felt that it was highly unprofessional and reckless to announce a study with no data to look at, making recommendations with such drastic public health implications. "This simply does not happen," says Bialy. "The government is reporting scientific facts before they've been reviewed? It's unheard of."

"It's beyond belief," says Dr. Sonnabend in a voice tinged with desperation. "I don't know what to do. I have to go in and face an office full of patients asking for AZT. I'm terrified. I don't know what to do as a responsible physician. The first study was ridiculous. Margaret Fishl, who has done both of these studies, obviously doesn't know the first thing about clinical trials. I don't trust her. Or the others. They're simply not good enough. We're being held hostage by second-rate scientists. We let them get away with the first disaster; now they're doing it again."

"It's a momentous decision to say to people, 'if you're HIV-positive and your T4-cells are below 500 start taking AZT,'" says the doctor who wished to remain anonymous. "I know dozens of people that I've seen personally every few months for several years now who have been in that state for more than five years, and have not progressed to any disease."

"I'm ashamed of my colleagues," Sonnabend laments. "I'm embarrassed. This is such shoddy science it's hard to believe nobody is protesting. Damned cowards. The name of the game is protect your grants, don't open your mouth. It's all about money... it's grounds for just following the party line and not being critical, when there are obviously financial and political forces that are driving this."

When Duesberg heard the latest announcement, he was particularly stunned over the reaction of Gay Men's Health Crisis President Richard Dunne, who said that GMHC now urged "everybody to get tested," and of course those who test positive to go on AZT. "These people are running into the gas chambers," says Duesberg. "Himmler would have been so happy if only the Jews were this cooperative." *

El Nacimiento Escandaloso Del AZT.

De Celia Farber.

Traducción: Viviana Diogo Guinarte.
Notas: Alfredo Embid.

Este artículo fue publicado por Celia Farber hace años en la revista SPIN de Nueva York. Lo hemos traducido pues contiene informaciones que no se han difundido nunca sobre cómo nació la surrealista terapéutica ortodoxa del SIDA. Desde el número 31 de la revista, donde publiqué un primer trabajo sobre el AZT, hemos venido denunciándolo regularmente en todos los siguientes: Toxicidad comprobada, efectos indeseables que no figuran en las advertencias, como el hígado graso, estudio Concorde que demuestra que en el grupo que lo tomaba murieron más que en el grupo que no lo tomaba, acusaciones de asesinato y demandas (aceptadas por los tribunales británicos) contra la compañía que lo comercializa: Wellcome. Por casualidad, Wellcome ha desaparecido fusionándose con otra multinacional, Glaxo, para constituir el mayor consorcio multinacional farmacéutico del planeta. El AZT es un fármaco que produce SIDA según sus propios fabricantes1. También publicamos este artículo para representaros a esta amiga, que es una periodista de investigación (una rara especie dentro de la profesión) además de una persona valiente y documentada (algo todavía más raro de encontrar en su profesión). Hemos publicado algunos de sus excelentes artículos anteriormente, en el número 32 sobre el congreso alternativo de Amsterdam y en el número 38 sobre los T4, y una comprensible introducción a nuestro libro «repensar el SIDA, entrevistas con los científicos disidentes». Además, su intervención en el «congreso de Argentina» está disponible en la colección de vídeos que hemos editado.
Podréis encontraros y discutir con ella en las II Jornadas de Medicinas Complementarias, ya que ha confirmado su participación, para exponeros los resultados escalofriantes del uso del AZT en embarazadas seropositivas y para participar en la Jornada sobre la Censura en la Ciencia en el caso de los científicos disidentes de la Hipótesis oficial del SIDA, tema con el que ha seguido implicándose, difundiendo sus opiniones desde su comienzo.

Alfredo Embid.

En un frío día de enero en 1987, dentro de una de las más potentemente iluminadas salas de reunión del monstruoso edificio de la FDA, un grupo de 11 de los más importantes doctores del SIDA calibraban una muy difícil decisión.

Habían sido requeridos por la FDA para considerar el dar la aprobación a toda velocidad a un fármaco altamente tóxico sobre el cual había muy poca información.

Llamado clínicamente Zidovudine, pero apodado AZT por sus componentes, se decía que el fármaco había mostrado un efecto portentoso en la supervivencia de los pacientes de SIDA. El estudio que había reunido al grupo, había causado un gran revuelo en la comunidad médica. Era la primera llama de esperanza -la gente se moría antes en el grupo de placebo que en el del fármaco-... según este estudio.

Pero existía una gran preocupación con respecto al nuevo fármaco. En realidad, había sido creado tres décadas antes para la quimioterapia del cáncer, pero se había arrinconado y olvidado por ser excesivamente tóxico, de fabricación muy costosa y totalmente ineficaz contra el cáncer. Poderoso, pero indiscriminado, el fármaco no era selectivo en su destrucción de las células.

Las compañías farmacéuticas de todo el mundo escudriñaban cientos de compuestos en la carrera por encontrar una cura, o por lo menos un tratamiento, para el SIDA. La Burroughs Wellcome, subsidiaria de la Wellcome, emergió como la triunfadora. Enviaron por azar el desechado fármaco contra el cáncer, entonces conocido como compuesto S, al Instituto Nacional del Cáncer junto con muchos otros para ver si conseguían destruir el dragón del SIDA, el VIH. Lo consiguió, por lo menos en el tubo de ensayo.

En la reunión, había mucha incertidumbre y descontento con respecto al AZT. Los doctores que estaban siendo consultados sabían que el estudio era defectuoso y que los efectos a largo plazo eran desconocidos. Sin embargo, el público estaba casi literalmente «aporreando la puerta». Comprensiblemente, se estaba ejerciendo una tremenda presión sobre la FDA para que aprobara el AZT aún más rápidamente de lo que lo había aprobado a mediados de los 60, lo cual había terminado causando severos defectos de nacimiento en bebés.

Todo el mundo estaba preocupado por eso. «Aprobarlo», dijo Ellen Cooper, una directora de la FDA «representaría dar un considerable y potencialmente peligroso giro con respecto a nuestras exigencias toxicológicas habituales».

Ya a punto de aprobar el fármaco, uno de los doctores del grupo, Calvin Kunin, recapituló el dilema existente entre ellos. «Por un lado», dijo «privar de un fármaco que disminuye la mortalidad en una población como ésta sería impropio. Por otro lado, utilizar este fármaco de forma generalizada, en áreas en las que no ha sido demostrada su eficacia, con un agente potencialmente tóxico, podría resultar desastroso».

«No sabemos que pasará de aquí a un año», dijo el presidente del grupo, el Doctor Itzhak Brook. «Los datos son todavía prematuros y las estadísticas no están muy bien hechas, en verdad. El fármaco podría ser, de hecho, perjudicial». Un poco más tarde, también dijo estar «impresionado por el hecho de que el AZT no detiene las muertes. Incluso aquellos a los que se les cambiaba al AZT seguían muriendo».

«Estoy de acuerdo contigo», respondió otro miembro del grupo «Hay tantas lagunas... Una vez que un fármaco es aprobado, ya no se sabe hasta que punto se abusará de él. No hay marcha atrás».

Burroughs Wellcome aseguró al consejo médico que podían proporcionar datos detallados de dos años de seguimientos, y que no permitirían que el fármaco sobrepasase los parámetros que habían prometido: Un recurso provisional para los pacientes muy enfermos.

El Doctor Brook no se dejó engañar por la promesa: «Si lo aprobamos ahora no tendremos los suficientes datos. Tendremos los que nos han prometido», predijo, «Pero a partir de ahí, la producción de datos será obstaculizada». El voto de Brook fue el único en contra de la aprobación del fármaco.

«No había los suficientes datos. No había seguimiento suficiente», recuerda. «Muchas de las preguntas que hacíamos a la compañía eran respondidas con un «no hemos analizado todavía los datos», o un, «No lo sabemos». Pensé que algunos datos eran prometedores, pero estaba preocupado por el precio que habría que pagar por ellos. Los efectos secundarios eran tan severos... Era quimioterapia. Los pacientes necesitarían transfusiones de sangre. Eso es cosa seria.

«El comité se sentía inclinado a darme la razón», dice Brook, «en que debíamos esperar un poco, ser más cautelosos. Pero, en cuanto la FDA se dio cuenta de que queríamos rechazarlo, pasaron a la presión política. Sobre las 4 p.m., el jefe del centro del FDA de biología y farmacología, pidió premiso para hablar, lo cual es francamente inusual. Normalmente nos dejan solos, pero él nos dijo: «Mirad, si aprobáis el fármaco, os aseguramos que trabajaremos en conjunto con Burroughs Wellcome y nos encargaremos que se suministre a la gente adecuada». Era como si estuviese diciendo «Por favor, decid que sí».

Brad Stone, el jefe de prensa del FDA, estaba presente. Dice no recordar ese discurso en concreto, pero no tiene nada de «inusual» el que los jefes de la FDA den ese tipo de discurso consultivo. «No había ninguna presión política» dice. «Las personas allí presentes aprobaron el fármaco porque los datos aportados por la compañía demostraban que estaba prolongando vidas. Por supuesto que era tóxico, pero llegaron a la conclusión de que los beneficios pesaban más que los riesgos».

La reunión finalizó. El AZT, sobre el cual algunos miembros del consejo se sentían aún inquietos y temerosos de que se convirtiese en una bomba de relojería, fue aprobado.

Un salto adelante en el tiempo: El 17 de agosto de 1989, los periódicos de toda (Norte)América publicaban en titulares sensacionalistas que el AZT había demostrado ser eficaz en portadores de anticuerpos del VIH, en pacientes asintomáticos y de ARC (Complejo de síntoma relacionado con el SIDA) en los primeros estadios. A pesar de que uno de los principales intereses del consejo era que se utilizase exclusivamente en casos de personas críticamente enfermas de SIDA, debido a la extrema toxicidad del fármaco. El Doctor Anthony Fauci, director de los Institutos Nacionales de la Salud (NIH), estaba ahora presionando para extender el radio de las prescripciones.

La vieja preocupación de la FDA ha sido olvidada. El fármaco ya se ha extendido a 60 países y a un número estimado de 20.000 personas. No sólo no se han aportado datos que mitiguen las inquietudes iniciales sino que los datos de seguimientos, tal y como predijo el Doctor Brook, se han dejado en el tintero. Los efectos beneficiosos del fármaco han demostrado ser sólo temporales. Sin embargo, la toxicidad sigue siendo la misma.

La mayoría de aquellos que pertenecen a las comunidades médicas y de afectados por el SIDA, han sostenido que el fármaco es el primer logro contra el SIDA. Para bien o para mal, el AZT ha sido aprobado más rápidamente que ninguna otra droga en la historia del FDA, y los activistas consideran esto una victoria. Sin embargo, el precio pagado por la victoria ha sido que desde su aprobación, la mayoría de los experimentos con fármacos del gobierno se centraron en el AZT, mientras que alrededor de otros 100 prometedores medicamentos se han dejado sin investigar.

Cuando la aprobación del AZT se dio a conocer las acciones de Burroughs Wellcome se dispararon. A un precio de 8.000 dólares por paciente y por año (sin incluir transfusiones de sangre), el AZT se convierte en el fármaco más caro en la historia del mercado. Los beneficios brutos de la Burroughs Wellcome para el próximo año se estiman en 230 millones de dólares. Los analistas del mercado de acciones predicen que para la mitad de los 90 la Burroughs Wellcome venderá un promedio 2 billones de dólares de AZT al año, bajo la marca Retrovir, lo que equivale a la venta total de todos sus productos en el último año.

Desde que comenzó la epidemia hace unos 10 años, el AZT es el único fármaco antirretrovírico que ha recibido la aprobación de la FDA para tratar el SIDA. Un solo estudio provocó esta decisión, y ese estudio fue declarado inválido hace ya tiempo.

Se pretendía que dicho estudio fuese un «estudio controlado de placebo doble ciego», el único tipo de estudio que puede probar eficazmente si un fármaco funciona o no. En tal estudio, ni el paciente ni el médico saben si al primero se le está administrando fármaco o placebo. En el caso del AZT, el estudio se «descubrió» a las pocas semanas.

Ambas partes contribuyeron a descubrirlo. Para los médicos se hizo obvio quién estaba tomando placebo y quien AZT, debido a los serios efectos secundarios que provoca este último, y que el SIDA no tiene por si mismo. Además, el sistema utilizado habitualmente para las pruebas de sangre, conocido como MCV, el cual podía mostrar claramente quién tomaba el fármaco y quién no, fue omitido en los informes. Ambos hechos fueron admitidos y ratificados tanto por la FDA como por Burroughs Wellcome, siendo esta última la que dirigió el estudio.

La mayoría de los pacientes que estuvieron en esa prueba han admitido haber hecho analizar las cápsulas para saber si estaban tomando el fármaco o no. Algunos, al descubrir que les estaban administrando sólo placebo, compraban AZT en el mercado negro. También se suponía que las píldoras eran inidentificables por el sabor, pero sí lo eran. Aunque esto fue corregido más tarde, el daño ya estaba hecho. También hubo informes de que algunos pacientes iban recolectando píldoras para los otros enfermos por solidaridad con ellos. El estudio está tan plagado de faltas que sus conclusiones, bajo el punto de vista de las normas científicas más básicas, deben ser consideradas nulas.

Sin embargo, el problema más serio del estudio original es que nunca fue concluido.

A las 17 semanas de comenzarse, cuando habían muerto más pacientes en el grupo de placebo, se detuvo (Cinco meses antes de lo estipulado) por razones «éticas»; Se consideró inmoral suministrar placebo a la gente cuando el fármaco podía permitirles vivir más. Debido a que el estudio se paró prematuramente, todas las conclusiones se atribuyeron al AZT; Ya no se puede llevar a cabo ningún estudio para comprobar de forma inequívoca si el AZT prolonga la vida o no.

El Doctor Brook, quién votó en contra de su aprobación, advirtió en su momento que el hecho de que el AZT fuese el único fármaco disponible para tratar a los pacientes de SIDA probablemente haría que su administración se descontrolase. Aprobarla prematuramente, dijo, sería como «dejar en libertad al genio de la botella».

Brook señaló que el fármaco, al ser una forma de quimioterapia, debía ser prescrita exclusivamente por médicos que tuviesen experiencia en este tipo de tratamientos. El efecto tóxico más poderoso del AZT -agotamiento de la médula ósea- hacía necesarias para los pacientes frecuentes transfusiones sanguíneas. Como era de esperar, tan pronto como fue lanzado al mercado, el AZT se comenzó a recetar desenfrenadamente y sobrepasó con creces los parámetros que se pretendían en un principio. El peor de los casos se hizo realidad: Muchos médicos entrevistados por el New York Times en 1987, revelaron que habían estado suministrando AZT a personas sanas con anticuerpos del VIH.

La función primordial de la FDA es la de sopesar la eficacia de un medicamento con los riesgos potenciales que encierra. La ecuación es simple y clara: Un fármaco debe, de forma incuestionable, reparar más de lo que daña, porque de otra forma, este podría causar más perjuicio que la propia enfermedad que se supone combate.

Lo que está ocurriendo con el AZT es precisamente aquello que más temen los médicos y los científicos.

El AZT fue seleccionado entre cientos de compuestos cuando el Doctor Sam Broder, director del Instituto Nacional del Cáncer (NIC) descubrió que «inhibía la replicación vírica in vitro»2. EL SIDA se considera un estado de depresión inmunitaria provocada por el virus VIH, que se replica y va comiéndose a las células T-4, las cuales son esenciales para el sistema inmunitario. El VIH es un retrovirus que contiene una encima llamada transcriptasa invertida, la cual convierte el ARN vírico en ADN. La creencia era que el AZT actuaba interrumpiendo esta síntesis del ADN y en consecuencia detenía la replicación del virus.

Aunque siempre se supo que el fármaco era extraordinariamente tóxico, el primer estudio concluía diciendo que «la relación riesgo/beneficio era favorable al paciente».

En el estudio que consiguió que la FDA aprobase el AZT, el único factor que desequilibró la balanza del jurado fue que el grupo de AZT había sobrevivido al grupo de placebo por lo que parecía ser una aplastante mayoría. El triunfo del estudio, el que canceló el problema de la enorme toxicidad fue el hecho de que en el grupo de placebo habían muerto 19 personas, mientras que en el grupo del AZT sólo había muerto 1. Los receptores de AZT mostraban además menor incidencia de enfermedades oportunistas.

Aunque estos datos maravillaron al consejo que aprobó el medicamento, otros científicos insisten en que no significaban nada -por la razón de que estaban recogidos de una manera desordenada y por que se había «descubierto» prematuramente.

Poco después de pararse el estudio, el índice de muertes se aceleró en el grupo del AZT.

«Después de un tiempo no hubo gran diferencia entre el grupo tratado y el no tratado», dice el Doctor Brook».

«El estudio se realizó de una forma tan poco sistemática que en realidad es como si no se hubiese hecho», dice el Doctor Joseph Sonnabend, uno de los médicos dedicados al SIDA más destacados de la ciudad de Nueva York.

El Doctor Harvey Bialy, editor científico de la revista Biotechnology, está pasmado por la baja calidad científica existente entorno a la investigación del SIDA. Al preguntarle si ha observado alguna evidencia de la verdad de las reivindicaciones hechas sobre el AZT de que «prolonga la vida» de los pacientes de SIDA, Bialy ha dicho: «No. No he visto un sólo estudio analizado y expuesto de forma objetiva».

Bialy, que también es biólogo molecular, está horrorizado por el uso generalizado del AZT, no sólo por su toxicidad, sino también porque «las atribuciones con las que justifican su uso extendido son falsas».

«No puedo imaginarme que puede hacer esta fármaco a parte de enfermar gravemente a la gente que lo tome», dice.

Los hechos científicos sobre el AZT y el SIDA son desde luego, sorprendentes. Irónicamente, se ha descubierto que el fármaco acelera el proceso que se suponía evitaba: La pérdida de células T-4.

No se puede negar que el AZT mata las células T-4 (células blancas de la sangre, vitales para el sistema inmune)», dice Bialy. «Nadie puede discutir eso».

El AZT es un nucleótido que destruye en cadena, lo cual significa que detiene la replicación del ADN. Busca y selecciona cualquier célula que este comprometida con la replicación del ADN y la mata. Esta replicación tiene lugar principalmente en la médula ósea. Esto hace que el efecto sucundario más nefasto sea la intoxicación de la médula y por eso se hacen necesarias las transfusiones de sangre.

El AZT se ha presentado en el mercado, de forma agresiva y reiterativa, como un medicamento que prolonga la vida de los pacientes de SIDA porque detiene la replicación y difusión del virus VIH entre las células sanas. Bialy dice, sin embargo, que «no hay una clara evidencia de que el VIH se replique de forma activa en un paciente de SIDA, así que si no hay replicación del VIH que detener, lo que hace en su mayor parte es matar células sanas».

El científico de la Universidad de California en Berkeley, Doctor Peter Duesberg, llegó a la misma conclusión en un informe publicado en «Proceedings», la revista de la Academia Nacional de Ciencias. Duesberg, que en dicho informe hacía mención a su aseveración de que el VIH no es causa suficiente para el SIDA, escribió: «Aún suponiendo que el VIH fuese la causa del SIDA, seguirá sin ser un objetivo legítimo para la terapia con AZT, porque en el 70-100% de las personas seropositivas, el ADN provírico no es detectable y nunca se ha observado su biosíntesis».

«Como fármaco quimioterápico», explica Duesberg, el AZT mata inhibiendo la división de las células sanguíneas y de otros tipos de células, y es por lo tanto directamente inmunodepresor».

«Las células constituyen un objetivo un millón de veces más importante que el virus, así que, las células serán mucho más vulnerables», prosigue Duesberg, «Muy pocas células, alrededor de una entre diez mil, tienen el virus que contiene el ADN, así que hay que matar un número increíble de células para inhibirlo. Este tipo de tratamiento en teoría podría ayudar si se tiene una infección masiva, lo cual no es el caso del SIDA. Mientras tanto, están administrando un fármaco que acaba por matar millones de linfocitos (células blancas de la sangre). No me entra en la cabeza la manera en que esto puede resultar beneficioso».

Sandra Lehrman, científica de Burroughs Wellcome discrepa: «En realidad no las mata, le basta con cambiar su función. Además, aunque los datos del comienzo decían que sólo estaban infectadas un número escaso de células, los actuales dicen que puede haber un número mayor. Hoy en día tenemos técnicas de detección más sensibles».

«¿Cambiar la función?, ¿De qué? ¿De funcionamiento a no funcionamiento?. Otro ejemplo más de ciencia mediocre», dice Bialy.

«La -técnica de detección sensible- a la que se refiere la Doctora Lehrman es la PCR3, muy poco fiable como para sacar conclusiones cuantitativas a partir de ella».

Cuando se plantean preguntas específicas sobre los supuestos mecanismos del AZT, las respuestas son extensas, contradictorias y plagadas de desconocimientos. Todos y cada uno de los aspectos científicos cuestionados sobre el fármaco son invariablemente contestados con la misma frase general: «El fármaco no es perfecto, pero es todo lo que tenemos hoy por hoy».

En relación a la destrucción de las células T-4, la doctora Lehrman dice: «No sabemos el motivo de que las células T-4 aumenten al principio y luego disminuyan. Es uno de los mecanismos del fármaco que estamos intentando comprender4».

Cuando a los promotores del AZT se les pregunta sobre los aspectos científicos clave del fármaco, ya sea a la NIH, a la FDA, a Burroughs Wellcome o a cualquier organización del SIDA, a menudo se enfadan.

Se aferran desesperadamente a la idea de que la droga está «haciendo algo», a pesar de que a esta confesión siguen las irritantes declaraciones habituales de que «hay mecanismos del fármaco y de la enfermedad que no entendemos». Es como si, en el ojo de la tormenta del SIDA, la postura oficial, la autorizada por el gobierno estuviese inmunizada contra la crítica. El escepticismo y el desafío, tan esenciales para el progreso de la ciencia y tan presente en casi todas las áreas del trabajo científico, no son bienvenidos en el debate del AZT, donde sin duda es más necesario que en cualquier otro.

Los efectos tóxicos del AZT, especialmente la depresión de la médula ósea y la anemia, son tan fuertes que un 50 por ciento de los pacientes de SIDA y de ARC son incapaces de tolerarlo y tienen que abandonar el tratamiento. En la carta de aprobación que Burroughs Wellcome envío a la FDA, se dio una relación de los 50 efectos secundarios del AZT, a aparte de los más habituales. Esta lista incluía: Pérdida de la agudeza mental, espasmos musculares, sangrado rectal y temblores.

La anemia, uno de los efectos más comunes del AZT, consiste en la destrucción de las células rojas de la sangre. Según Duesberg, «los glóbulos rojos son la única cosa sin la que no puedes pasar. Sin glóbulos rojos no puedes coger oxígeno».

Fred, una persona con SIDA, fue tratado con AZT y sufrió una anemia tan fuerte que tuvo que suspender el tratamiento.

En una entrevista incluida en el libro sobre el SIDA «Sobreviviendo y prosperando con SIDA». Michael Callen describe5 cómo se siente uno cuando tiene anemia: «Vivo en un estudio y mi cuarto de baño está tan sólo a cinco pasos de mi cama. Yo me tumbaba en ella y me quedaba allí durante dos horas; ¡No podía levantarme y dar esos cinco pasos!. Cuando me llevaron al hospital, tuvo que venir alguien a vestirme. Esa tremenda fatiga... Las condiciones de vida eran lamentables... Nunca me había sentido tan mal... Dejé el AZT y la confusión mental, los dolores de cabeza, los dolores en la nuca, las náuseas, todo había desaparecido a las 24 horas».

«Ahora me siento muy bien», prosigue Fred. «Pienso en lo espantosas que eran mis condiciones y calidad de mi vida hace dos semanas, y la verdad es que eso me tenía muy asustado, tanto que para calmarme tenía que tomar pastillas. Estaba tan preocupado... Solía perder el hilo de lo que estaba diciendo en mitad de una frase... En la calle perdía la orientación...».

«Muchos pacientes de SIDA ya están anémicos antes de que se les administre el fármaco» dice la Doctora Lehrman de Burroughs Wellcome, debido a que el VIH puede haber infectado la médula ósea y causar la anemia».

Este argumento traiciona un razonamiento estrafalario. Si los pacientes de SIDA soportan problemas como la inmunodepresión, la intoxicación de la médula ósea y la anemia, el hecho de agravar estos trastornos con el AZT ¿Constituye una mejora?.

«Si, el AZT es una forma de quimioterapia», dice Jerome Horwitz, el hombre que inventó el compuesto hace un cuarto de siglo. «Es citotóxico y, como tal, provoca intoxicación de la médula ósea y anemia. Existen problemas con el fármaco. No es perfecto, pero no creo que nadie pueda decir que sea inútil. La gente puede vociferar hasta el día del juicio sobre su toxicidad, pero hay que fijarse también en los resultados».

Irónicamente, son los resultados los que sentencian al AZT.

Algunos estudios sobre los efectos críticos del AZT -incluyendo el que fundamentó la aprobación de Burroughs Wellcome- han llevado a la misma conclusión: El AZT es eficaz durante unos meses, pero luego su efecto desciende vertiginosamente. Incluso el estudio original del AZT mostró que las células T-46 aumentaban durante un tiempo y luego caían a plomo7. Los niveles de VIH disminuían y luego volvían a subir.

Este hecho es bien conocido del consejo que votó la aprobación. Como miembro de aquel consejo, el Doctor Stanley Lemon dijo en una reunión de entonces: «No me he quedado tranquilo después de haber visto algunas diapositivas, parece que tras 16-24 semanas -de 12 a 16 semanas, creo-, el efecto parece declinar».

Dos años después se planteó una reunión de seguimiento del estudio original de la Burroughs Wellcome para discutir la amplia gama de efectos del AZT, así como las estadísticas de supervivencia. Tal y como recuerda uno de los doctores presentes en la reunión de mayo de 1988, «No hubo un seguimiento del estudio. Cualquier efecto beneficioso había desaparecido al medio año. Todo lo que tenían era algunas estadísticas de supervivencia de un promedio de 44 semanas. El nivel de p24 no resultó como se esperaba y no hubo una mejora persistente en las células T-4».

Los niveles de VIH en la sangre se miden por medio de un antígeno llamado p24. Burroughs Wellcome afirmó que el AZT disminuía el nivel de p24, es decir, que disminuía la cantidad de VIH en la sangre.

En la primera reunión con la FDA, Burroughs Wellcome hizo incapié en la manera en que el fármaco había «disminuido» los niveles de p24; En la reunión de seguimiento no mencionaron el asunto.

Al final de la reunión, el Doctor Michael Lange, director del programa de SIDA en el hospital Roosevelt de St. Luke en Nueva York, habló al respecto: «Las alabanzas al AZT se basan en la suposición de su efecto antivírico», dijo dirigiéndose a la Burroughs Wellcome «Pero todavía no hemos visto ningún dato sobre eso... Hay un artículo en The Lancet (una prestigiosa revista médica británica) que dice que tras 20 semanas, más o menos, el p24 reaparece en muchos pacientes. ¿Tienen Vds. datos sobre esto?».

No los tenían.

«Lo que cuenta es la línea de estado», resume uno de los científicos representantes de la Burroughs Wellcome, «La supervivencia, la función neurológica, la ausencia de progresión en la enfermedad y la calidad devida; Todo lo cual mejora. Ya sea por el efecto antivírico o por el efecto antibacteriano, pero mejora».

El Doctor Lange sugirió que el fármaco quizás era aficaz en la forma en que lo es un antiinflamatorio, como lo es una aspirina, y que un fármaco como la Indometacina, podía servir a la misma función sin los efectos devastadores del AZT8.

Hoy, uno de los principales investigadores del SIDA, el cual formaba parte del consejo de aprobación, dice: «El AZT ¿Está haciendo algo?. Si, algo está haciendo. Pero no existen pruebas de que esté haciendo algo contra el VIH».

«Siempre ha habido fármacos que utilizamos sin saber exactamente como funcionan», dice el premio Nobel Walter Gilbert. «Lo que primero hay que mirar es el efecto clínico del fármaco y preguntarnos. ¿Está ayudando o no?».

«Yo soy una prueba viviente de que el AZT funciona», dice alguien enfermo de ARC tratado con AZT. «Llevo tratándome con él desde hace dos años y desde luego estoy más sano de lo que lo estaba hace dos años. No es que sea una panacea, no es perfecto, pero es eficaz. Está deteniendo la evolución de la enfermedad».

«A veces me siento como si estuviese tragando desatascador de desagües», dice otro. «Lo que quiero decir es que a veces tengo problemas para tragarlo. No me gusta la idea de tener que tomar algo que es extraño a mi cuerpo, pero cada seis horas tengo que tragármelo. Hasta que aparezca algo mejor, esto es lo único que hay para mí».

«Estoy totalmente convencido de que el que no toma AZT tiene mayor calidad de vida y sobrevive más tiempo», dice Gene Fedorko, Presidente de la «Health Education AIDS Liaison» (HEAL; Coordinadora del SIDA para la Educación de la Salud). «Pienso que es horrible la forma en que la gente es forzada por sus médicos a tomar la droga. La gente viene a nosotros temblando y llorando porque sus médicos les han dicho que morirán irremediablemente si no toman AZT. Eso es mentira». Fedorko llegó a esta conclusión, tras años escuchando (en el grupo semanal de apoyo organizado por HEAL) las historias de personas luchando por sobrevivir al SIDA.

«No tomaría AZT aunque me pagasen», dice Michael Callen, cofundador de la coalición PWA de la ciudad de Nueva York, de la Iniciativa de Investigación de la Comunidad, y editor de diversas revistas sobre SIDA.

Callen ha sobrevivido al SIDA durante siete años sin ayuda del AZT9.

«Me han dado mucho la vara por decir esto, pero mi opinión es que utilizar el AZT es como apuntar a un mosquito con una cabeza termonuclear. La aplastante mayoría de los supervivientes a largo plazo que he conocido han elegido no tomar AZT».

Uno de los pacientes que más ha vivido desde el experimento inicial del AZT, de acuerdo con la Burroughs Wellcome, ha muerto recientemente.

Cuando murió, había estado bajo tratamiento con AZT durante tres años y medio.

En un estudio de conjunto, resultya que el paciente que más tiempo ha sobrevivido al SIDA ha sido alguien que no estaba bajo tratamiento con AZT y ha sobrevivido ocho años y medio.

En un estudio extraoficial sobre supervivientes del SIDA a largo plazo se hizo un seguimiento de 24 pacientes que habían sobrevivido más de seis años a la enfermedad; Sólo uno de ellos había empezado recientemente a tomar AZT.

Al principio se decía que el AZT prolongaba la vida. En realidad, no hay pruebas concluyentes de que el AZT prolongue la vida.

«En mi opinión el AZT alarga la vida de la mayoría de las personas que lo toman», dice el Doctor Bruce Montgomery de la Universidad del estado de Nueva York en Sony Brook, quien está completando un estudio sobre el AZT. «No hay demasiados pacientes que sobrevivan durante mucho tiempo, y la verdad es que no sabemos por que sobreviven. Podría ser suerte. Pero la mayoría de la gente no tiene tanta suerte».

«Parece que el AZT ayuda a muchos pacientes», dice el Doctor Bernard Bahari, médico e investigador del SIDA de la ciudad de Nueva York, «Pero es muy difícil detreminar si realmente prolonga la vida o no».

«Muchos de los pacientes a los que atiendo escogen no tomar AZT», dice el Doctor Don Abrams del Hospital General de San Francisco. «Me ha llamado la atención el hecho de que la supervivencia y la esperanza de vida están aumentando en las personas con SIDA. Creo que eso tiene mucho que ver con la Pentamadina aerosolizada (un fármaco que trata la neumonía pneumocystis carinii).

Está también el denominado efecto plaga: La gente se va fortaleciendo cada vez más cuando una enfermedad afecta a toda una población.

Los pacientes que atiendo hoy en dia, no son tan frágiles como los pacientes del principio».

«El hecho de que mueras o no de SIDA, va en función de lo bien que te atienda tu médico, no del AZT», dice el Doctor Joseph Sonnabend, uno de los principales y más reputados doctores en SIDA de la ciudad de Nueva York; entre cuyos pacientes se incluyen muchos supervivientes a largo plazo, a pesar de no haber prescrito jamás AZT.

Sonnabend fue uno de los primeros en hacer la sencilla observación de que los pacientes de SIDA deberían ser tratados por sus enfermedades y no por su infección de VIH10.

Varios estudios han llegado a la conclusión de que el AZT no tiene efecto alguno sobre las dos infecciones oportunistas más comunes en el SIDA: La neumonía por pneumocystis carinii (NCP) y el sarcoma de Kaposi (SK). La abrumadora mayoría de los pacientes de SIDA mueren de NPC, pera la cual existe tratamiento eficaz desde hace décadas.

Este año, la FDA finalmente aprobó la Pentamidina Aerosolizada para tratar el SIDA. Un reciente estudio del Memorial Sloan Kettering terminaba con la siguiente observación: Durante 15 meses, el 80% de los pacientes bajo tratamiento con AZT que no recibieron Pentamidina, presentaron episodios recurrentes de pneumocystis. De los que tomaron Pentamidina sólo presentó episodios recurrentes un 50%.

«Todas esas muertes del estudio del AZT eran tratables», dice Sonnabend. «No fueron muertes de SIDA, fueron muertes de estados tratables. Ni siquiera hicieron autopsias en ese estudio. ¿Cómo puede uno tener fe en esta gente?».

«Si existe alguna resistencia al AZT entre la población, es la de la comunidad gay de Nueva York», dice un doctor acerca de la aprobación de la FDA, quien ha preferido permanecer en el anonimato. «El resto del país se ha dejado lavar el cerebro y cree que el fármaco es efectivamente tan beneficioso como dicen.

Todos los datos han sido manipulados por personas que han conferido demasiadas virtudes al AZT».

«Si el SIDA no fuera una enfermedad tan popular -Una fábrica de dinero y carreras-, esta gente no hubiera conseguido salir adelante con esta ciencia de pacotilla», dice el Doctor Bialy11. «En todos los años que he dedicado a la ciencia jamás había visto algo tan atroz». Al preguntarle si era posible que algunas personas hubiesen muerto envenenadas por el AZT y no por causa del SIDA, respondió: «Es más que posible».

17 de agosto de 1989: El gobierno anuncia que 1,4 millones de norteamericanos seropositivos sanos podrán «beneficiarse» del AZT, incluso los que no muestren síntomas de la enfermedad. Nuevos estudios habían «probado» que el AZT era eficaz a la hora de frenar la progresión del SIDA en casos asintomáticos o en las primeras fases del ARC. El Doctor Fauci, líder de la NAIAD, anunció orgullosamente un experimento que se venía realizando desde hacía «dos años» el cual había «mostrado claramente» que la temprana intervención mantenía el SIDA a raya. «Cualquier persona que tenga anticuerpos del VIH y menos de 500 células T-4, debe empezar a tomar AZT de inmediato», dijo.

Eso supone aproximadamente 650.000 personas. 1.4 millones de norteamericanos han sido declarados portadores de anticuerpos del VIH, y al final puede que todos necesiten tomar AZT para no enfermar», sostiene Fauci.

Al prestigioso periódico no le debió de parecer inusual que no hubiese ninguna copia del estudio y, en su lugar, solo un informal artículo de dos páginas del NIH (Instituto Nacional de la Salud Americano).

Cuando SPIN llamó al NIH solicitando una copia del estudio, nos dijeron que «aún se estaba escribiendo»...

Hicimos algunas preguntas con respecto a las cifras.

Según la publicación, se habían dividido 3.200 pacientes asintomáticos y de ARC en la primera etapa en dos grupos: Uno de AZT y otro de placebo, y se habían seguido durante dos años. Los dos grupos se distinguían por la cantidad de células T-4: Un grupo tenía menos de 500, el otro más de 500. Cada uno de estos dos grupos estaba dividido a su vez en otros tres: Dosis alta de AZT, dosis baja de AZT y placebo.

En el grupo con más de 500 células T-4, el AZT no tuvo efecto. En el otros grupo se decidió que la dosis baja de AZT era la más eficaz, seguida de la dosis alta.

En resumen, de 900 desarrollaron SIDA un total de 36 en los dos grupos y de los 450 del grupo de placebo lo desarrollaron 38.

«Los pacientes seropositivos son dos veces más propensos a desarrollar SIDA si no ingieren AZT», declaró la prensa.

Sin embargo, estas cifras son engañosas. Al preguntar cuantos pacientes en realidad habían cumplido los dos años del estudio, el NIH nos contestó que no lo sabían, pero que le promedio de duración de la participación fue de un año, no de dos12.

«La forma en que presentaron las cifras fue muy deshonesta», dice el Doctor Sonnabend. «De haber habido 60 personas en ese experimento, las cifras hubiesen significado algo. Pero si calculamos el promedio de los 3.200, las diferencias entre los dos grupos resultan insignificantes. No es nada. Es hacerlo a la buena de Dios y a ver que pasa. Sin embargo, lo hacen parecer algo importantísimo».

El estudio alardeaba de que el AZT es mucho más eficaz y menos tóxico a un tercio de la dosis que se ha venido utilizando durante los tres últimos años. Esas son las buenas noticias. Las malas son que miles de personas ya han sido bombardeadas con 1.500 miligramos de AZT, quizá incluso han muerto de envenenamiento tóxico y ¿Ahora nos enteramos de que un tercio de la dosis hubiera bastado?.

Cuando los efectos del AZT parecen tan vagos, resulta criminal recomendar la extensión de su uso a la gente sana; sobre todo si tenemos en cuenta que sólo un pequeño porcentaje de la población infectada con VIH ha llegado a desarrollar SIDA o ARC.

La Burroughs Wellcome ya ha puesto en marcha las pruebas de AZT en trabajadores asintomáticos en hospitales, mujeres embarazadas y niños; estos últimos lo toman en estado líquido. El AZT líquido es el sobrante de experimentos abortados, y se da a los niños porque puede mezclarse con agua -a los niños no les gusta tragar pastillas-.

Se ha propuesto también dar AZT a personas que ni siquiera tienen anticuerpos del VIH pero que son «vulnerables».

«Estoy convencido de que si diésemos AZT a un atleta en perfecto estado de salud, moriría en cinco años», dice Fedorko.

En diciembre de 1988, The Lancet publicó un estudio que ni Burroughs Wellcome ni el NIH habían facilitado a la prensa. Era más completo que el estudio original y el seguimiento de los pacientes era más prolongado. No fue llevado a cabo en los Estados Unidos sino en el Estado francés, en el hospital Claude Bernard de París, y llegaba a las mismas conclusiones sobre el AZT que el de la Burroughs Wellcome, excepto que esta compañía consideró sus resultados como «extraordinariamente positivos», mientras que los doctores franceses llamaron a los suyos «decepcionantes».

El estudio francés encontró, una vez más, que el AZT era demasiado tóxico para ser tolerado en la mayoría de los casos, que no tenía efectos duraderos sobre los niveles de VIH en la sangre y que dejaba a los pacientes con menos células T-4 que al principio.

A pesar de que al inicio habían constatado una notable mejoría, su opinión final era que «al cabo de seis meses, estos valores retornaban a los niveles anteriores al tratamiento y que tenían lugar diversas infecciones oportunistas, enfermedades y muertes».

El informe del equipo francés terminaba diciendo: «Los beneficios del AZT se limitan a unos pocos meses en los pacientes de SIDA y ARC». Tras unos meses, el AZT era completamente ineficaz.

La noticia de que el AZT es recetado13 a personas asintomáticas, ha dejado a muchos de los más prestigiosos doctores del SIDA, anonadados y furiosos. Todos y cada uno de los médicos y científicos a los que hemos preguntado son de la opinión de que es muy poco profesional y temerario anunciar un estudio sin datos que examinar, haciendo recomendaciones tan drásticas sobre la salud pública. «Esto no puede estar ocurriendo», dice Bialy14, «¡El gobierno está dando a conocer hechos científicos antes de que estos sido examinados!. Es lo nunca visto».

«Esto es increíble», dice el Doctor Sonnabend con una voz teñida de desesperación. «Ya no sé que hacer. Cada día tengo que enfrentarme con una consulta llena de gente pidiéndome AZT. Estoy aterrorizado. Como médico responsable no sé que hacer. El primer estudio fue ridículo. ES obvio que Margaret Fischl, la persona que ha realizado los dos estudios, no tiene ni la más vaga idea sobre experimentos clínicos. No me fio de ella. Ni de los otros. Sencillamente, no son lo bastante competentes. Hemos sido tomados como rehenes por científicos de segunda clase. Les dejamos escapar con el primer desastre. Ahora, lo están consiguiendo otra vez».

«Tomar la decisión de decirle a la gente -Si eres seropostivo y tienes menos de 500 células T-4, comienza a tomar AZT- es algo de mucha trascendencia», ha dicho un médico de SIDA que ha preferido permanecer en el anonimato. «Conozco docenas de personas, a las cuales he atendido cada pocos meses a lo largo de varios años, que han permanecido en el mismo nivel durante más de cinco años y no han desarrollado ninguna enfermedad».

«Me siento avergonzado de mis colegas», se lamenta Sonnabend. «Estoy abochornado. Esta es una ciencia de tres al cuarto. Parece mentira que nadie proteste. Malditos cobardes. El juego se llama -protege tu subvención, no abras la boca-. Se trata de dinero... el pretexto para seguir la línea del partido y no ser críticos, cuando es obvio que hay fuerzas políticas y económicas dirigiendo todo esto».

Cuando Duesberg escuchó las noticias, se asombró especialmente de la reacción del presidente del Gay Men's Health Crisis, Richard Dunne, quien dijo que ahora la GMHC urgía a «todo el mundo a hacerse pruebas» y, por supuesto, todos aquellos que diesen positivo «debían empezar el tratamiento con AZT».

«Esta gente se está precipitando a las cámaras de gas», dice Duesberg. «Qué feliz se hubiese sentido Himmler si los judíos hubiesen cooperado así».

1Ver el vademecum de especialidades farmacéuticas español sobre este producto y nuestro comentario sobre los cambios que los fabricantes han hecho en el mismo en los últimos años.
2Algo que hacen muchas otras sustancias: Ver «Estimular las defensas de otra forma», artículos sobre fitoterapia china, etc.
3La PCR (Reacción en Cadena de la Polimerasa) fue descubierta por el Dr. Kary Mullis, que obtuvo el Premio Nobel. Kary Mullis es uno de los científicos que no creen que el SIDA esté causado por el VIH.
4Es algo que el Doctor Duesberg ha explicado claramente. Ver artículo sobre el AZT en el número 31, página 35.
5Ver su artículo en el número 33-34 de la revista.
6Ver artículo sobre los T4 en el número 38 de Celia y otros en el número 42 de próxima publicación.
7El Doctor Duesberg ha dado una explicación a este fenómeno. Ver nuestro artículo sobre el AZT en el número 31 de la revista.
8Añade que «es economico y no tóxico» y lo he suprimido pues esto es evidentemente falso como he demostrado en el libro ¿Sabe usted lo que le recetan?.
9Ha muerto hace un año por motivos que desconozco, pero puedo apuntar que aunque no tomaba AZT, sí había aceptado un gran número de fármacos (tóxicos en mayor o menor medida) que le había recetado su médico (el Doctor Sonnabend), para prevenir todas las enfermedades supuestamente relacionadas con el SIDA.
10Una observación de sentido común que comparto plenamente. Pero no en darles una quimioterapia tóxica de por vida con fines supuestamente «preventivos».
11Doctor Harvey Bialy. Biólogo molecular, virólogo, director científico de la revista Biotechnology. Hemos publicado una entrevista con él en el número 33-34. Su intervención en las I Jornadas de Medicinas Complementarias, así como en el Congreso de Argentina sobre el SIDA, están disponibles en vídeo.
12Esto es particularmente grave ya que incluso dos años resultan insuficientes para evaluar los efectos secundarios de este tóxico, muchos de los cuales se manifiestan a largo plazo.
13En el artículo original «pronto será recetado a», que hemos cambiado puesto que esta perspectiva se convirtió en un hecho. Desgraciadamente, millones de personas que no padecían nada, en perfecto estado de salud y que sólo presentaban un recuento bajo de células CD4 (que no significa mucho como hemos explicado ya repetidas veces) fueron sometidas al AZT y expuestas a sus efectos secundarios.
14Op. cit.

Artículo publicado en el número 41 de la revista «Medicina Holística». Edita: Asociación de Medicinas Complementarias (A.M.C.).