The Current

Dr. Oz controversy raises questions about celebrity doctor endorsements

American daytime television star Dr. Oz is facing criticism for claims he's made on his show regarding "miracle" weight-loss drugs.
American daytime television star Dr. Oz is facing criticism for claims he's made on his show regarding "miracle" weight-loss drugs. The controversy raises questions about the ethics of celebrity doctors promoting unproven products to the public.
I don't know why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true. So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill grilled Dr. Mehmet Oz before the U.S. Senate's consumer protection panel this week over his claims.

A promotion by the doctor can cause weight loss supplements to fly off the shelves -- a phenomenon known as "the Oz effect." The Oz effect has moved African Mango Seed, saffron extract, and green coffee bean extract. 

Dr. Oz says he's never endorsed products, but rather praised some health supplements as fat-busters.

To discuss, we were joined by two guests:

  • Julia Belluz is a health reporter and a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.
  • Dr. Brian Goldman is an ER physician and host of CBC Radio's White Coat, Black Art.

We requested an interview with Dr. Oz, but did not hear back. He did post a message on his Facebook page:

I was pleased that the hearing yesterday dealt with some complicated issues and had all the players present whose cooperation will be necessary to move forward in protecting the consumer. For years I felt that because I did not sell any products that I could be enthusiastic in my coverage and I believe the research surrounding the products I cover has value. I took part in the hearing because I am accountable for my role in the proliferation of these scams and I recognize that my enthusiastic language has made the problem worse at times. To not have the conversation about supplements at all, however, would be a disservice to the viewer. In addition to exercising an abundance of caution in discussing promising research and products in the future, I look forward to working with all those present yesterday in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight loss scams.Dr. Mehmet Oz

Do you think celebrity doctors should only promote well-tested products?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Peter Mitton and Pacinthe Mattar.

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