In June of 2014, Dr. Mehmet Oz was called before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance to testify at a hearing about fake weight loss products. During the Senate hearing, the senators grilled Dr. Oz about the products he promotes on his television show, scolding him for making false claims and delivering a strong dose of public humiliation. For healthcare professionals, the hearing is a valuable lesson in responsible patient communication.
One of the most significant grievances against Dr. Oz during the Senate hearing related to his so-called "miracle" weight-loss cures. Three in particular drew scathing remarks from the committee's chair, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO): green coffee beans, Garcinia cambogia and raspberry ketone. McCaskill scolded Oz for using the word "miracle" and reminded him that almost all off the existing scientific research was against him. She went on to say that his platform offered him a great deal of power and that he had a duty to exercise responsibility.
For people in the healthcare field, the hearing is a valuable reminder that patients may be getting their medical information from questionable sources. Though Dr. Oz is a practicing cardiothoracic surgeon, his television personality deals more in quick fixes and everyday advice. It is crucial not to underestimate his power and his reach. In fact, as McCaskill stated during the hearing, a single endorsement from Dr. Oz can lead to a dramatic increase in sales, a phenomenon she called the "Oz Effect."
While there is no way to stop patients from getting advice from Dr. Oz and other medical television personalities, it is important to help them weed through the advice to find the safest options. While the Senate subcommittee hearing focused on weight-loss products, Oz's television show and others of its kind promote a wide range of medical products, tips and treatments. Without intervention from a healthcare professional with knowledge of a patient's medical background, this advice has the potential to be dangerous.
The hearing also points to the importance of safe, reasonable weight-loss care in the United States. As evidenced by the "Oz Effect," consumers are desperate for a quick, painless solution. For healthcare professionals, this reinforces the need for readily available weight-loss coaching, information and education. Without the support of their doctors, consumers are likely to turn to supplements and quick cures that, at the very least, are a waste of time and money. At worst, they could cause health complications or problems.
Though Dr. Oz was called out publicly for his onscreen comments, the television doctor is not closing up shop. He has promised to be more thoughtful when promoting supplements, but medical professionals and consumers should be on the lookout for further dubious advice.
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