MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of the most influential promoters of outright quackery. I once (many years ago) met him at a meeting where we both were lecturing. My impression was that he does not believe a single word he speaks. Oz later became a TV star and had ample occasion to confirm my suspicion.

Oz’s wife, Lisa, is a Reiki master and has spoken widely of her insights into energy and health. Mehmet Oz appeared as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2009, Winfrey offered to produce a syndicated series. The Dr. Oz Show debuted in September 2009 and became the most successful promotion of charlatanery in the US. During a Senate hearing on consumer protection in 2014, Senator Claire McCaskill stated that “the scientific community is almost monolithic against you” for airing segments on weight loss products that are later cited in advertisements, concluding that Oz plays a role, intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams, and that she is “concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.” This judgement was supported by a 2014 analysis published in the BMJ; here is the abstract:

Objective To determine the quality of health recommendations and claims made on popular medical talk shows.

Design Prospective observational study.

Setting Mainstream television media.

Sources Internationally syndicated medical television talk shows that air daily (The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors).

Interventions Investigators randomly selected 40 episodes of each of The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors from early 2013 and identified and evaluated all recommendations made on each program. A group of experienced evidence reviewers independently searched for, and evaluated as a team, evidence to support 80 randomly selected recommendations from each show.

Main outcomes measures Percentage of recommendations that are supported by evidence as determined by a team of experienced evidence reviewers. Secondary outcomes included topics discussed, the number of recommendations made on the shows, and the types and details of recommendations that were made.

Results We could find at least a case study or better evidence to support 54% (95% confidence interval 47% to 62%) of the 160 recommendations (80 from each show). For recommendations in The Dr Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%. For recommendations in The Doctors, evidence supported 63%, contradicted 14%, and was not found for 24%. Believable or somewhat believable evidence supported 33% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 53% on The Doctors. On average, The Dr Oz Show had 12 recommendations per episode and The Doctors 11. The most common recommendation category on The Dr Oz Show was dietary advice (39%) and on The Doctors was to consult a healthcare provider (18%). A specific benefit was described for 43% and 41% of the recommendations made on the shows respectively. The magnitude of benefit was described for 17% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 11% on The Doctors. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest accompanied 0.4% of recommendations.

Conclusions Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits. Approximately half of the recommendations have either no evidence or are contradicted by the best available evidence. Potential conflicts of interest are rarely addressed. The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.

During the presidential campaign in 2016, Oz supported Trump and hosted him on his TV show. In 2018, Donald Trump appointed him to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, Oz was criticized as an example of choosing “pundits over experts”. Recently, Oz announced he intends to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican.

A fellow physician commented that he has the same amount of enthusiasm for Oz’s candidacy as he would with a case of dysentery, the intestinal infection that causes bloody diarrhea. Dr. Daniel Summers, MD, begged Pennsylvania not to elect Oz. “It’s been obvious for years that Oz is more than happy to leverage his reputation as a cardiothoracic surgeon and medical scientist in service to his own celebrity and advancement, and isn’t one to let quaint little things like facts stand in his way,” he wrote. “Stroll down a checkout aisle in your local grocery store, and chances are strong you’ll see his smiling face on the cover of a magazine touting some wildly unhealthy weight-loss claim. He’s been promoting pseudoscience on his show for years, from obesity ‘remedies’ like green coffee and garcinia cambogia to hawking ‘homeopathy starter kits,’ so this is nothing new.” Oz faced criticism for hosting a show in which he debated the utility of “reparative therapy” and “forms of therapy that are designed to turn a gay person straight,” even though they’ve been banned by many states at the urging of the American Psychological Association.

In April 2020, Oz also spurred controversy because he said that children should be sent back into schools despite the fact that the novel coronavirus pandemic had only just begun and there were no vaccines or therapeutics yet available. “I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity,” he said, claiming that resuming classes “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,” according to his “reading” of medical journals. The mistake was so substantial that Oz later provided a kind of half-apology, saying that he “misspoke.”

But what Dr. Summers finds worse is that Oz eagerly pushed treatments like hydroxychloroquine for COVID patients. He even went so far as to push the drug on Fox & Friends. It prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci, a virologist, to explain that the data simply wasn’t clear at the time. “Although there is some suggestion [of effectiveness] with the study that was just mentioned by Dr. Oz . . . I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” Fauci said at the time. “We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one . . . is truly safe and effective.”

“Medical misinformation is literally killing people, and it is unconscionable that anyone who should know better would contribute to it. And Oz most certainly should and does know better,” said Dr. Summers. “It is telling that Oz would see a space for himself in the Republican primary field. The GOP is riddled with prominent figures who undermine the seriousness of the pandemic, refute the importance of getting vaccinated, and denigrate the public health officials tasked with keeping the American people as safe and healthy as possible. Voters for those people are the ones Oz sees himself capable of wooing. That is the base he will need to capture to make his candidacy a success.”

7 Responses to Quackery promoter, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is running for the U.S. Senate

  • Dr Oz the far right charlatan doctor and Oprah Winfrey the far left specialist in cahoots. I am so confused how these two hooked up, amazing. Popularity and money can make a person shallow, no?

  • Correction, I believe Oprah and Oz are medium left and right, not extreme.

    I would never vote for OZ, he is fake.

    • Not sure any correction is needed. Where anyone is on the politicfal spectrum is certainly not a precise science. Oz easily falls into “extreme” by almost any measure–he had Trump on his show and totally bought the whole farce of Trump’s letter from his doctor that we now know from the doctor in question that Trump wrote himself–no surprise there if you look at the pompous and increulous language used in the letter.

      As to Oprah, she seems a bit more sincere but is in the end an opportunist. She grew up poor and abused so will do anything to escape all that, but I certainly hope she regrets showering fame and fortune on the most distasteful quack Oz.

  • Hahaha I saw this comment on FB, I wonder which one you would choose 🙂

    “Least terrible option?

    a) Oz on his own TV show
    b) Oz in politics
    c) Oz hosting Jeopardy
    d) Oz playing GP in real life”

  • Sending children back to school “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,”
    His mistake is that mortality rates for children are actually much less than 1 percent. Meanwhile suicide rates for school age children skyrocketed. Dr Oz’s assessment that they should be is school is correct.

    Here is a listing of the studies on HCQ, which they assess:
    “Early treatment consistently shows positive effects. Negative evaluations typically ignore treatment time, often focusing on a subset of late stage studies.”
    https://c19hcq.com/

    I recommend an antidote to this blogpost. Read “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.” You can decide for yourself who the real frauds and purveyors of medical misinformation are..

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