Campaigns & Elections
Physicians: Oz ‘lying to the American people’ through promotion of ‘quack cures’
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate often used his media platforms to push questionable health products and views.
The doctors are in … to let people know they’re out on fellow physician Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
Many medical professionals are speaking out against Oz and what they call his record of “lying to the American people about medicine.”
Several physicians met for a roundtable discussion in Philadelphia Thursday that was organized by Democratic candidate John Fetterman’s campaign, following the Washington Post report on Oz’s history of providing a platform for questionable products and views.
The “Real Doctors Against Oz” campaign features more than 100 commonwealth physicians who signed a letter this week expressing serious concerns regarding his candidacy.
Oz – a cardiothoracic surgeon-turned-television star-turned-candidate – has made his careers in medicine and show business centerpieces of his campaign. While doctors running for office often tout their credentials on the campaign trail, few have such an extensively recorded background as Oz.
The Washington Post report outlined the unproven weight loss products and other treatments Oz promoted on his daytime television show, noting that numerous studies have found that many products he peddled were unproven and potentially dangerous.
Physicians noted various unproven claims Oz made over the years, including his promotion of green coffee and garcinia cambogia extract as weight-loss miracles and, more recently, hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.
“We understand that we have a moral and civil obligation to our patients and our communities to be truthful,” Dr. Belinda Birnbaum said. “The reality of a Sen. Oz is out there, and the decades he’s spent manipulating the public as a profiteer would no doubt carry over into office.”
Dr. Mark Lopatin, a retired rheumatologist, cited a 2014 study that looked into claims made on televised medical talk shows. After investigating the quality of recommendations and claims made on medical talk shows, the study found that nearly 40% of the randomly selected recommendations made on “The Dr. Oz Show” were not supported by any case study or evidence-based research.
“Words like ‘revolutionary,’ ‘miracle,’ ‘magic’...have two things in common,” Lopatin said. “These words have been used by Dr. Oz to promote a product on his show. They are also buzzwords for quack cures.”
Lopatin went on to describe the issues related to the promotion of hydroxychloroquine during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a rheumatologist, Lopatin noted he has a lot of experience prescribing hydroxychloroquine for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. When the drug was being pushed by many conservative voices in the media, patients who needed the drug for its intended purposes struggled with access.
“It’s not so much that hydroxychloroquine hurt patients that had COVID – it’s a relatively safe drug. But it meant that many patients used that as an alternative to other treatments,” Lopatin said. “The other things we see are the downstream ramifications. Because hydroxychloroquine was touted as a cure for COVID, I had trouble getting (it) for my patients.”
When asked about the physicians’ statements, Oz’s campaign said he has gotten Americans to “take charge of their health care.”
“Dr. Oz is a world-class surgeon, inventor, educator and author in the field of health care. He has designed devices that have made healthcare more affordable and safer, written eight New York Times best sellers, and hosted the No. 1 health show in the world, which has inspired millions to take charge of their healthcare,” Rachel Tripp, a spokesperson for Oz, said in an email.
Oz’s campaign has previously said he used his show to welcome open conversation and opinions from all kinds of people. “It’s idiotic and preposterous to imply that he shared the same beliefs and opinions as every guest on his show, or that having someone on his show constitutes a blanket endorsement of their beliefs,” Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for the Oz campaign, said in the Washington Post report.
But when discussing the difference between exploring alternative treatments and promoting unproven products, the physicians said being honest to a patient is of the utmost importance.
As roundtable participant Dr. Matthew Magda explained, “We’re supposed to look at the evidence and ask ‘Is this high-quality evidence? Has this been studied?’ pointed out ...Once we start using our credentials, to say ‘this is safe,’ or ‘this isn’t safe’...it starts having real-life consequences for people.”