Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Who's the Quackadoo? Oprah or Dr. Oz?

This morning I was treated to a confluence of stories that intertwine in interesting ways -- something that always prompts me to point out the links between seemingly disparate sources of information.

I read the first story in the June 8, 2009, issue of Newsweek during breakfast this morning: "Crazy Talk. Oprah, Wacky Cures & You."

Wow Oh Wow! A critique of Oprah Winfrey! On the front cover of a national news magazine! Can you get any more cheeky than that? And I thought I got hate mail when I was critical of Sally Field for being a mouthpiece for Boniva (see "Web 2.0 Hates Sally").

"Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!" proclaims the subtitle of the Newsweek article. These are all claims made by Oprah and/or her TV guests like wacky Suzanne Somers who injects estrogen directly into her vagina (yech!) and claims her unregulated "bioidentical" hormones are risk free!

"Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo," says Oprah. Not Oprah. "But she just might be a pioneer." Yeah, pioneer like Jebediah Springfield in an episode of The Simpsons!

The Newsweek article goes on to recount many instances where Oprah seems to endorse wacky ideas on her show and gives the last word to individuals who have a different sense of what is and what is not science.

For example, Jenny McCarthy -- like Suzanne Somers, another erstwhile Playboy model -- was a guest in 2007. McCarthy blames the MMR vaccination for her son's autism, a claim often disputed by the CDC. While a doctor from the audience pointed out the lack of scientific evidence connecting vaccination with autism, Oprah gave McCarthy the last word, which was "My science is named Evan, and he's home. That's my science!"

Anecdotal evidence and personal experience -- especially of celebs -- is Oprah's forte. It's also the forte of celebrity endorsements paid for by the pharmaceutical industry (see, for example, "Will Latisse Turn Brooke Shields' Blue Eyes Brown?").

The other story I cam across this morning concerned Mehmet Oz MD (Dr. Oz) who makes frequent appearances on Oprah and has the line of best selling books You A User’s Manual, says J Douglas Bremner on his Before Your Take That Pill Blog (see "America’s Doctor Back Peddling More Goods: Have Some Resveratrol").

Bremner's beef with Dr. Oz is that he is a shill for the pharmaceutical industry (see "Online Age Quiz Is a Window for Drug Makers"). I have commented on this previously (see here). RealAge was also featured in a recent post by Jonathan Richman on his Dose of Digital Blog (see "RealAge, Wii Fit, and Pharma Marketing").

"It is bad enough when he [Oz] is cheering for drugs that might work sometimes, in some people," says Bremner. "But now he is blowing his bully horn for complete rubbish. Namely, resveratrol. A supplement that originally came from wine skins that is now being touted as the cause of the 'French paradox' and which can cure cancer and extend your life... America’s quack now tells us that taking resveratrol can prolong your life based on studies in animals that it extends life by 35%. 'Don’t you want to live to be 125?' he croons."

At least Somers is less grandiose in her aspirations for long life. "I know I look like some kind of freak and fanatic," she said. "But I want to be there until I'm 110, and I'm going to do what I have to do to get there." Hasn't she tried resveratrol yet? Why settle to live to just 110 when you can go all the way to 125?!

Newsweek's Oprah story also featured Dr. Oz, but mostly in a favorable light. While other Oprah guests "gush nonsense," say the authors, "Some of the many experts who cross her stage offer interesting and useful information (props to you, Dr. Oz). Oz, fit and handsome, is particularly good at connecting with Oprah's audience. He is a cardiac surgeon at Columbia University and generally sticks to the facts."

Dr. Oz, however, does not always to stand up for science and use "facts" to dispute the questionable claims made by other "experts."

"Oz isn't without his faults," say the Newsweek authors. "He sometimes keeps quiet on the show when Oprah's out-there experts are spouting their questionable theories. There seems to be an unwritten rule that one Oprah expert may not criticize or correct another, and Oz has an interest in keeping Oprah happy. She has turned his books into mega-bestsellers, and features him on her Web site and in her magazine."

So who's the biggest quackadoo? Oprah or Oz? You tell me.


  1. Marilyn Mann9:04 AM

    Oz is worse because he should know better and his medical degree gives him credibility (to some people; not to me, of course).

  2. Thanks John for keepin' it real.

    Among many other issues you opine on this is among the most important. This outright quackery is downright dangerous and another reason it is critical for PhRMA to remain credible itself so that this stuff has less traction.

    When people distrust PhRMA and real medicine, people turn to this at their own peril. Purportedly "safe" and "natural" medicine in not safe when people use it and forego proven and/or plausibly effective treatments for real medical problems.

    Unfortunately, people will learn the hard way. Or worse, they won't ever get a chance to comprehend their choice.

  3. Anonymous5:16 AM

    We are not getting out of this depression anytime soon. Its going to get a lot worse for most of us. It didn't have to be this way. Greed ruins everything. If you don't believe it, then ask any professor of economics.

    "As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption; mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth -- not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced -- to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery. Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped."

    Marriner Eccles, FDR's Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank - 1959

    In other words, the first Great Depression was caused by greed. The rich couldn't settle for reasonable pay. They had to have more and more and more. That caused a giant shift in buying power from the majority to the rich. When the majority lost their buying power, they lost their ability to support the economy. Einstein said basically the same thing in 1949.

    Its even worse now. Ordinary people havn't only lost their relative buying power. They have also lost their savings, home values, pensions, and benefits. This didn't happen overnight. Its been happening gradually for the last 30 years. Meanwhile, the rich have become super incredibly rich. The richest 500 Americans are worth about two trillion dollars. More than the bottom 40% of American housholds combined. The richest 1 percent are worth about 15 trillion dollars. More than the bottom 98% of American households combined. Thats just insane. I don't care how much work for humanity the rich claim to do. Its nothing but a cover for their own greed. We don't need anymore rich people to create jobs or make donations for charity. We need them to get reasonable about how much money and assets they keep for themselves.

    Don't believe their excuse about paying more income taxes. They don't pay enough. For every tax they pay, they get an obscene profit, bailout, or kickback from our government to cover it. We had a progressive tax system that worked for over 40 years. It prevented too much wealth from accumulating at the top. In 1976, the middle 80% owned about 2/3 of America's total wealth. Reagan lowered taxes for the rich. Bush lowered them again. Now, the richest 5% own about 2/3 of America's total wealth. The lower 95% own about 1/3. America's wealth has been transfered from poor to rich again. Now, we have another depression.

    Don't believe it when the rich claim to be getting poorer. Property values have gone down for everyone. Thats because of the concentration of wealth and income. When the economy slows down, property values tank. So when rich people complain about lower net worth, its a trick. They still have the same buying power on average.

    Everything that is happening with the economy is happening because too much wealth has been taken away from the majority and concentrated into the private vaults of rich people. The same ones on TV telling us how much they want to help the world. Its a big lie. Just another way to promote their own business and get more of our money. Rich people don't want to help the world. They want to own it.

    Now, the economy is ruined. Obama can't fix it because the rich won't let him. There will be no bailout for the people because the ones with all the money won't settle for less. They want more. Its going to get a lot worse. Say goodbye to the American dream and hello to the American nightmare.

  4. Anonymous4:34 AM

    Dr Oz is soon going to have his own show:
    The Dr Oz Show

    I reckon he won't do much better, thou you might never know.

  5. Don't be too tough, he does contribute and I post about some of the neat things he does. Like anyone, nobody likes everybody else, and I have my critics too.

    Side note here, when you google dr oz and quack, guess what, you get my blog!

    I am the Heinz 57 blogger I think of healthcare anyway, but lots of good stuff with new technology, devices, and last but not least my opinions too. You can imagine what I have gone through in life with the last name of Duck, thus I am a medical quack. (grin).

  6. Joseph10:50 PM

    The word Quackery was Developed by the American Medical Association which was started and funded by Rockefeller to protect his Pharmaceuticals (IG FARBEN) which is made thru his Oil(Petro chemicals).since he could not compete against natural healers like homeopathic doctors and all others he set out to destroy them by creating the biggest scam called the AMA(mafia. Like this his AMA could now legally discredit doctors by calling them Quacks and SUPPRESS cures which have always existed for many illnesses and Cancer's thus the word "ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE" WAS BORN .ALSO very important , Even though Rockefeller destroyed Holistic and Homeopathic and all other natural doctors he himself ONLY used a HOMEOPATHIC DOCTOR. this is part of our Un-taught history. the day America decides to wake up from its deep sleep it will get interesting. Until then you will be enslaved to drugs,chemo and surgery instead of Healing yourself .when you allow others to think for you you become their slave.

  7. Love the post this morning, John.

    For a while, on a variety of subjects, I've been concerned about Oprah's influence. Full disclosure: I DVR her show every day and watch most of them. Some are more palatable to me than others. Recently, she has fallen out of favor with me beacuse of her dabbling in politics and new age medicines.

    That being said, the rerun of her show on living with terminal illness featuring Dr. Oz, Kris Carr, and Randy Pausch happened to air the afternoon I was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. It was a blessing for me.

    I don't support most of the medical advice I hear on TV until I can verify it on my own with my own physicians.

    Nature has provided some amazing medicines: penicillin, Byetta (from the saliva of a gila monster), adriamycin (chemo drug I had as part of my regimen). So, there are really amazing lessons to learn from nature. There just needs to be more scientific evidence and more balance from her panel members to present information and not opinion.


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