Dr.Oz has admitted before Congress that some products from his show [read: magic beans] don’t pass “scientific muster,” but for the approximately four million viewers who still tune in daily, the television personality’s pseudoscience carries dangerous weight. Third year med-student Benjamin Mazer has launched a campaign to protect patients from Oz’s “miracle cures,” and I’d say he has a David and Goliath fight ahead of him–if the righteous might of science wasn’t on his side.
The University of Rochester student has been crusading against Oz the great and powerful since last year, when Mazer asked the Medical Society of the State of New York and the American Medical Association to submit televised health claims to the same rigorous scrutiny as expert testimony–long before the Doctor was called to Washington last June over exaggerated promises of weight loss.
In an interview with Vox, the University of Rochester student explained that he became troubled by the health guru’s influence after working at a family medicine clerkship and seeing how patients’ trust of doctors in the media affected how they interacted with their real-life physician:
The patient who inspired the policy I wrote was an older woman in her 60s who had a lot of the classic, chronic health problems we deal with in America. She was overweight, she had diabetes, heart disease. And so the physician I was working with was recommending these oral diabetes medications that are pretty standard fare. She had watched the Dr. Oz Show featuring weight:green coffee-bean supplements—and how it was great to lose weight—and she was convinced this was going to be a huge impact on her weight. We tried to politely express concerns that this probably wasn’t going to be effective because there’s no evidence for it. She refused the diabetes medications.
The trust patients can develop for TV doctors is even more troubling considering that, as Mazer points out, “Dr. Oz has something like 4-million viewers a day [...] The average physician doesn’t see a million patients in their lifetime.” Thankfully, appealing to organized medicine has had some influence on how televised health claims are treated in the professional community–Mazer says the State of New York (where Oz is licensed) is more aware of how the TV personality falls through “gaps of regulation.”
In spite of Mazer’s prompting, the American Medical Association hasn’t changed its preexisting policy on television testimonials– hopefully with Oz’s recent weight loss debacle, Mazer won’t have to do much more convincing for the AMA itself to undermine the Doctor’s credibility.
(via Business Insider)
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