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McCaskill Goes After Dr. Oz at Hearing

A few days ago I lamented the fact that Dr. Oz was being called to testify in front of a Senate hearing about diet scams. I thought he was going to be allowed to make a star turn, but Sen. Claire McCaskill went after him pretty hard for being a huge part of the problem.

Senators took every opportunity to criticize Oz for endorsing certain chemicals as easy routes to weight loss, a rare show of scrutiny for a celebrity witness.

“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told Oz in a comment typical of the hearing’s tone.

Lawmakers are taking an interest in diet fads after a string of actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against fraudulent players in the industry.

The FTC is currently suing a Florida company that claimed its Pure Green Coffee product would help users shed 20 pounds in four weeks.

The campaign used footage from Oz’s show where he discussed the alleged benefits of green coffee extract.

Oz, a bestselling author and cardiac surgeon, acknowledged to lawmakers that he had made the FTC’s job “more difficult,” but defended his motives.

“My job is to be a cheerleader for the audience when they don’t think they have hope,” he said.

No it isn’t. You’re a fucking doctor, for crying out loud. Your job is to give medically accurate information, not to peddle snake oil for big money. You’re a fraud and a con man.

“I have things I think work for people. I want them to try them so that they feel better, so that they can do the things we talk about every day on the show [like diet and exercise].”

“When I can’t use language that is flowery, that is exulting, I feel like I’ve been disenfranchised,” he added…

At one point, McCaskill called attention to a 2012 segment in which Oz called green coffee extract a “magic weight loss cure for every body type.”

“The scientific community is almost monolithically against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’ ” she said.

“We didn’t call this hearing to beat up on you. … [But] you can either be part of the police or be part of the problem, and we hope you’ll do a better job at being part of the police.”

Oz replied that he’s toned down his language but won’t stop recommending weight-loss remedies to the public.

He should lose his medical license. And Congress should pass a law putting these “supplements” under the jurisdiction of the FDA so that they are required to document the medical efficacy or they can’t sell them.

Comments

  1. Kevin Kehres says

    And Congress should pass a law putting these “supplements” under the jurisdiction of the FDA so that they are required to document the medical efficacy or they can’t sell them.

    Amen.

    Recently, my pique was raised when I saw a commercial for a multivitamin. The middle-aged guy was praising the fact that when the medical community wanted to test the benefits of multivitamins, they chose “his” multivitamin. Of course, completely ignoring the findings of the clinical trial — which found no benefit from a daily multivitamin.

    What chutzpah.

  2. says

    His attempt at (im)plausible deny-ability was laughable. “Oh, since I wasn’t selling them, I thought it was ok.” He thought that by not promoting a specific product by name, just by type, that he could skate around the responsibility. One wonders, though, if there was some under-the-table money coming from the supplement manufacturers and going to Oz. “Consultant fees” or fees to license the clips that they used in their advertisements.

  3. Raucous Indignation says

    To be clear, Dr Oz is a surgeon in a very specialized sub-specialty of surgery. It takes years of very focused training to become a thoracic surgeon. He probably knows next to nothing about diet and weight loss. It certainly isn’t part of his usual practice.

  4. D. C. Sessions says

    He probably knows next to nothing about diet and weight loss.

    Yes and no. For one thing, thoracic surgery is extremely demanding physically — he’s got to be in absolutely top shape and spends a lot of time every day staying that way [1]. Besides that, I’d guess — totally without evidence — that a lot of his patients are seriously obese. Which sure can’t help, even aside from the totally natural empathy that he probably has for them.

    Other than that, though, he was pretty clear that “calories out, calories in” is the alpha and omega of weight loss. All the rest is showmanship — which he defends.

    [1] He’s also getting close to the age where he can’t handle the physical demands any more. I wonder what his next career move will be?

  5. Pieter B, FCD says

    His job is to be a cheerleader. His duty as a physician is to give his audience medically accurate information. When the job conflicts with the duty, honorable people resign.

  6. JustaTech says

    Oh I wish the FDA could have regulatory power over supplements! Now you don’t even have to show that they are safe, let alone effective. But you can bet dollars to donuts that Sent Orrin Hatch won’t let that happen. Him and the supplement law DSHEA. One of the few ‘supplements’ to be recalled fromt he market were weight-loss supplements that turned out to be fen-phen, and they were only recalled after people died. Again.

  7. ianken says

    There’s a video of James Randi taking about Oz. It’s pretty good, and takes Oprah to task add well. Oz is an accomplished surgeon but he’s also into the woo. His wife “assists” in some procedures with her reiki energy bullshit. Oz will actually step back to allow his wife to pretend to be a wizard or whatever during a procedure.

  8. Sastra says

    To paraphrase:

    McCaskill: You’ve been caught red-handed recommending medicine which lacked good scientific evidence.

    Dr. Oz: So? I also recommend the healing power of prayer. It sounds like you’re attacking faith.

    McCaskill: Prayer is free.

    Dr. Oz: True. But I still get points for dragging religion into this.

  9. says

    “Oz will actually step back to allow his wife to pretend to be a wizard or whatever during a procedure.”

    Would this not constitute actionable malpractice?

  10. eric says

    Congress should pass a law putting these “supplements” under the jurisdiction of the FDA so that they are required to document the medical efficacy or they can’t sell them.

    A somewhat pointless move unless you simultaneously increase FDA’s budget significantly. They don’t even have the resources to test new mainstream drug products for efficacy – right now, they basically do safety tests and thats it. These things would be given a low priority and never tested, simply due to resource constraints.

    I’d rather see NCCAM staffed with mainstream, skeptical doctors and scientists, and then their resources used to perform such testing. In this political climate, it’d be much much easier for the President or NIH to put some hardass political appintee in charge and let them clean house, vs. getting Congress to increase the FDA budget significantly.

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