Paging Dr Oz: Drop the Healthcare Horoscopes

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Physician-turned-TV personality Dr Mehmet Oz is at it again.
Physician-turned-TV personality Dr Mehmet Oz is at it again.

Physician-turned-TV personality Dr Oz is at it again.

This time, Mehmet C. Oz, MD, director of the Integrative Medicine Center at the Columbia University Department of Surgery is shilling astrology — yes, that astrology ­— as a way for people to “pinpoint distinct regions where [they] might experience health problems.”1

In a now-deleted Tweet, Dr Oz (or, rather, Dr Oz's social media manager) shared a slideshow of information gathered from the book Your Body and the Stars: The Zodiac As Your Wellness Guide, co-authored by astrologer Rebeca Greene and Stephanie Marango, MD. According to Ms Greene, Dr Oz (as a Gemini), is embodied by the arms, forearms, and hands. The Gemini goal is to “serve as a messenger of an illuminated mind,” and as such, “pain or tightness in the hands and fingers may occur more often for this star sign.”1 We hope that Dr Oz has a good physical therapist on hand (pun intended).

As expected, the online medical community was not having it.

Jennifer Gunter, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist immediately took Dr Oz to task, tweeting:

Dr Gunter is no stranger to challenging questionable medical practices, calling out Dr Oz as recently as this past May.2

Using the Zodiac in place of evidence-based medicine is the latest in a long line of questionable tactics from the TV physician. Since his time on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the celebrity heart surgeon has shilled everything from the healing power of numerology to the ability of Umckaloabo root extract to cure the common cold.

In 2014, it may have seemed that Dr Oz's time in the spotlight was coming to an end — the physician was called to testify in front of a Senate subcommittee after championing green coffee bean extract as a miracle weight loss supplement. However, the “science” behind the supplement was called into question and the ultimately, the research paper was retracted.3,4 Dr Oz was chided by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, who said to Dr Oz, “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you.”5

Following his testimony on Capitol Hill, numerous media outlets panned Dr Oz; from Vox to NBC News, the “Dr Oz Effect” was called into question.6,7 Even Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took Dr Oz to task when John Oliver asked “Are you a doctor or an old West traveling salesman?”

More recently, the medical community began to question Columbia University, where Dr Oz is still on staff. The University's response to a 2015 letter calling for Dr Oz's dismissal cited a faculty member's right to freedom of expression; however, as The New Yorker pointed out, to invoke the first amendment “in order to protect the right of one of America's most powerful doctors to mislead millions of people seems a bit excessive.”8

In 2017, the AMA Journal of Ethics published an article examining “professional self-regulation.”9 In it, Jon C. Tilburt, MD, MPH, a faculty physician at the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues refer to Dr Oz as “a physician visibly out of step with his profession” citing his widespread influence throughout the United States. Dr Tilburt and colleagues concluded that “The case of Dr Oz forces us to own our contemporary moment, rebooting doubt on how we know what we know and whose opinion counts.”

Despite public outcry, the Dr Oz juggernaut rolls on. Just this year alone, Dr Oz has shared his 10-day belly slimdown grocery list, what “super carbs” will supercharge weight loss, and a segment billed as “the full health scoop on poop.” It's only a matter of weeks — maybe even days — until the next Dr Oz-sanctioned medical fad blows up online.

References

  1. What your astrological sign can tell you about your health. The Dr. Oz Show. https://www.doctoroz.com/gallery/what-your-astrological-sign-can-tell-you-about-your-health?gallery=true. June 6, 2018. Accessed June 7, 2018
  2. Gunter J. Dr Oz warns viewers about “fake” psychics wants you to pay for “real” ones. Dr Jen Gunter website. https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/dr-oz-warns-viewers-about-fake-psychics-wants-you-to-pay-for-real-ones/. May 7, 2018. Accessed June 7, 2018.
  3. Vinson JA, Burnham BR, Nagendran MV. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a green coffee bean extract in overweight subjects [Retraction]. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2014;16;7:467
  4. Oransky I. Authors retract green coffee bean diet paper touted by Dr. Oz. Retraction Watch. https://retractionwatch.com/2014/10/20/authors-retract-green-coffee-bean-diet-paper-touted-by-dr-oz/. October 10, 2014. Accessed June 7, 2018
  5. Belluz J. Government confirms one of Dr. Oz's favored diet pills is a total hoax. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2015/1/26/7916745/green-coffee-bean. Updated January 26, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2018
  6. Belluz J. Why Dr. Oz can say anything and keep his medical license. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2014/6/24/5838690/why-is-dr-oz-still-a-doctor. June 24, 2014. Accessed June 7, 2018
  7. How “The Dr. Oz Effect” has Hooked American Consumers. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/how-dr-oz-effect-has-hooked-american-consumers-n134801/. June 18, 2014. Accessed June 7, 2018
  8. Specter M. Columbia and the problem of Dr. Oz. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/columbia-and-the-problem-of-dr-oz. Published April 23, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2018
  9. Tilburt JC, Allyse M, Hafferty FW. The case of Dr. Oz: ethics, evidence, and does professional self-regulation work? AMA J Ethics. 2017;19(2):199-206

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