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Snake Oil

A New Low for Dr. Oz

Pardon me this morning while I rant a little. In fact, it’s worse: pardon me while I rant a little about something that I’ve ranted about before. I refer to that disgrace to the medical profession, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

I haven’t mentioned him on the site in a while, because really, why bother? Nothing that a person like me can say will derail that juggernaut of TV viewership, publicity, and money. Sweet, sweet money. Oz has a fan base of the credulous and the underinformed, and when he comes on his show talking about the latest all-natural extract that will Melt The Pounds Off or perhaps Fight Cancer, product moves off the shelves. And that’s what’s important, right? As long as the rubes reach into their pockets?

Don’t forget (see that first link above) that Oz himself is on record with the New Yorker about cancer: “We could sell that show every day“, says this heir of Hippocrates. You may remember the scene in Huckleberry Finn where the (self-named) Duke and Dauphin are putting up notices of their “theatrical performance” at a riverside town. After inspecting the wording, the Duke says, with satisfaction: “There. If that line don’t fetch them, then I don’t know Arkansaw!” Dr. Oz knows how to fetch ’em. And he doesn’t even need to escape on a raft downriver after the audience catches on, because they never do.

What’s set me off this time is this tweet from Dr. Oz’s busy Twitter account. Update: it appears that it’s been deleted! But check his website (for now) if you want to see it anyway. . .It’s not about cancer per se, nor about dieting nor even about ways to as look young and untroubled as someone who’s never heard of Dr. Oz. No, the latest bulletin from the frontiers of medicine is. . .astrology. Yes. “For centuries,” says this egregious huckster, “we have used astrological signs to examine our personality and how we interact with those around us. . . Discover what your astrological sign can tell you about your health“.

So it’s come to this. It was Cicero who wondered how one fortuneteller could pass another in the street and keep a straight face. But that’s Dr. Oz’s main qualification – he keeps a straight face no matter what he’s holding up to the camera. What’s next? I can just see this credentialed hack earnestly pointing at maps of the soles of the feet to enlighten the masses about reflexology, or extolling the diagnostic benefits of the bumps on the skull. What am I saying – he’s probably done those already, and if he hasn’t, it’s not for lack of shame. Dr. Oz is a double recessive for shame.

You wonder what a younger, less. . .flexible. . .version of the man would have thought if he could have had a vision of himself in 2018 touting star signs for better health. Would he have been shocked, appalled, wondering how it ever came to this? Or would he have noted the TV studio backdrop and his later self’s easy familiarity in front of the camera and thought “Hmm. Not bad.” We’ll never know. All we have is the current version of Mehmet Oz, and he has a TV show to host, products to move, guests to nod at thoughtfully, books to plug. And checks to cash. Never forget those.

There was a sequence in Walt Kelly’s classic Pogo strip where Barnstable the Bear realized to his horror that (although he was illiterate) when he actually tried writing, his productions were wildly catchy and annoying advertising jingles. Albert the Alligator saw this as a big opportunity to get rich (several of the swamp’s characters were always on alert for such), and tried to persuade his friend to keep cranking out more of them. “No! I can always rob graves!” was the bear’s anguished response.

So allow me to appropriate that advice. It’s a more honorable career than using the tatters of one’s medical reputation to shill crap about astrology to the living, anyway. Let’s buy Dr. Oz a shovel and see if we can persuade him to alter course.

86 comments on “A New Low for Dr. Oz”

  1. Bob Seevers says:

    I saw the title and thought, “A new low for Dr. Oz—how is that even possible.” Silly me. In my opinion, Dr. Oz is less a quack than he is a whore, selling himself to make a buck. No, that is an insult to prostitutes who give value for money.

    1. Rational Db8 says:

      I put Oz’s page with that astrological article into the internet archive/wayback machine – so now even if he deletes it from his website, it can be found and seen, now preserved for ?? maybe life…

  2. mm says:

    Looks like the link (and tweet) are gone already? I saw it this morning, and the backlash was deservedly strong… maybe he deleted to save his “reputation”?

  3. Anon says:

    Dr. Oz, the medical World’s Trumpster! They both survive as purveyors of lies and deceit, brazenly. Shame on their ilks.

    1. Pavlatos, MD Andrew says:

      I don’t know…his hucksterism reminds me more of the Clintons

      1. past tense says:

        Actually it would be interesting to find out the % of dems and republicans who watch Oz man’s show…i would think mostly dems the same way dems embrace the Jimmy Swaggert of the climate change religion: Al Gore.

        1. Anon says:

          Oh I see.. you think democrats are more delusional than Trump supporters

      2. MeNotYou says:

        You got that right! Like the Clintons! LOL!

    2. johnathan Parker says:

      Shamefully however that his former institution the famous Ivy League school Columbia University does not think that it is prudent to distance themselves from this Doctor who is trully a discrace to the medical community and science .

  4. You deserve this and, possibly one more, rant about Mehmet Oz’s professional qualifications due to his upcoming entry into U.S. public service:
    I’m not clear on the duties of the President’s Council on sports, fitness and nutrition. Do they have an Astrology & Health commitee?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Joan Quigley (q.v.) was Nancy and Ronald Reagan’s Astrologer for seven years in the White House. From wikipedia: “She was called on by First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1981 after John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of the president, and stayed on as the White House astrologer in secret until being outed in 1988 by ousted former chief of staff Donald Regan.” I’ll bet she never saw that coming!

    2. Pcn1 says:

      Loved your comment. Even tough a serious matter, i laughed at your last line. Thanks. Anout time people are speaking up. I remember the oprah days..He’s gone a long way down since then, sad to say.

  5. KN says:

    Trump appointing Dr. Oz to his sport, fitness and nutrition council.

    1. eyesoars says:

      That makes perfect sense in the Trump administration, where playing a part on TV qualifies one for the job in real life, but having actual qualifications for a position is disqualifying.

      It’s like Reaganism on steroids, with a large dose of LSD to help the side-effects.

  6. Billy says:

    It’s almost worse than a train wreck to look at, Derek, but the parting of a fool and his money is inevitable. Especially for people who live their lives based on faith that ______.
    The blank can be filled with many things; in this case “… some douche on tv is telling them the truth.”

  7. BK says:

    I used to work in the supplement industry while in undergrad. I can confirm that one supp company owner loved Oz for promoting some snake oil crap that said owner happened to sell. He said he couldn’t keep up with the demand for a very long time. As a business man who actually didn’t pay Oz to say anything about it (some other company probably paid lots, I imagine), he was astounded by the power Oz actually has over the zombie TV following.

  8. Russ says:

    I’m impressed how you worked “Huckleberry Finn”, Cicero, and “Pogo” into the same article.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      I enjoyed doing it! But it wasn’t on purpose; those are just the things that hit me while I was writing. Culture comes at a person from all directions. . .

      1. Tanaz says:

        As Derek’s wife, I have to confirm that he’s like this all the time.

        1. Derek Lowe says:

          Can confirm that she can confirm that!

        2. David Edwards says:

          Ah, we get to see a brief appearance from “Mrs Derek”, as it were!

          Now, the next question I have for you is this … would he wear a T-shirt like this one? 😀

      2. I’m a disabled stand-up Comedian who’s been making fun of Oprah, Oz and Weil for years…So I’m a born again, hardcore atheist, but even I recognize Oprah as a gullible tool send by Satan; she effectively unleashed the four henchmen of the (rational thought) Apocalypse, Dr Oz, Dr Phil, Long Island effing medium and Deepak Choprah. Followed by a bit on Oz being a plumber (interventional cardiologists) who trusts his medical skills so little, he employs a faith healer in his OR, a reiki master. Haha. You can’t make this up! Other stuff is a simple, I wake up every day by saying ‘screw you, Oprah and your gratitude journals’. Or fuck, I wished I was normal and fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (instead of spinal cord inflammation). Cheers!

  9. johnnyboy says:

    Sad isn’t it. Sad, and frankly, weird. It can’t just be the money, right ? I mean, the guy was already a Harvard cardiac surgeon, so probably grossing close to half a million a year, even before starting to go on Oprah. With his TV gig and all the associated merch, his income is now probably enough to buy a third world country. What could possibly be pushing him lower and lower like this, to lose all shred of medical/scientific credibility ? Is it celebrity, the need to always be in the news ? Should celebrity be considered a new neurodegenerative disease ?

    1. NMH says:

      Possibly his wife, whose father was an MD pushed music to be played during surgery.

      I get a kick of everybody in his family trying to sell a book.

      1. Mark Thorson says:

        His wife is a Reiki practitioner. I can see auras and teach other people to see auras, but I do not believe auras have any value in diagnosing medical conditions or emotional states.

        And the fuse on the captcha is too freaking short!

        1. Anonymous says:

          “And the fuse on the captcha is too freaking short!” There’s a little reload button right there: the two semi-circle arrows. Just click that before you hit the Post Comment button. My complaint is that the captchas are getting harder: most of the time, I have to do two digit arithmetic; sometimes -, sometimes +. What’s next, x and / ?

          1. Dr. Manhattan says:

            Partial differential equations…

    2. Rational Db8 says:

      There are some otherwise apparently very bright people who really do fall for pseudo-science and/or conspiracy theories and so on. Always amazing to bump into them, and you’d sure think that someone who managed to become a surgeon like Oz would avoid it – but some of them don’t. He may actually believe the garbage he’s pushing, unfortunately. Who knows – other than him and maybe a few who are personally close to him.

  10. Emjeff says:

    For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul? We can answer that; at last count Dr. Oz is pulling down a cool $14 million a year. The guy has not a shred of dignity, not an ounce of scruples.

    1. Nick K says:

      I would happily exchange my dignity for 14 million bucks a year. Sadly, no one has ever offered me the opportunity….

  11. BernYeeRemote says:

    Its our chance to observe chemical Darwinism at work. Oz followers should be studied scientifically and lifespans determined, so we can watch their numbers decline and eventually their DNA will disappear.
    At least in theory.

    1. Chris Phoenix says:

      Is he selling fear, or placebos? Is he raising or lowering his viewers’ stress load? That could make a significant difference in the clinical outcome.

  12. Anonymous says:

    There are MANY studies on Intercessory Prayer (see pubmed, wikipedia, etc). I read Derek J. De Solla Price’s “Little Science, Big Science” as a freshman and it was very entertaining and influential. He mentions the work of Galton who wanted to calculate the effect of the many thousands of daily and weekly prayers by the masses on the longevity of British Royals. “The result was a negative number.”

  13. dum-surfer says:

    He recently did ads for Turkish Airlines, featuring him cruising in first class. Unfortunately for a time the ads were plastered all around Copley Station.

  14. cynical1 says:

    I just told my boss that I will have to call in sick two weeks from today. Evidently, I read my health horoscope and it says that I’m going to be very sick to my stomach two weeks from today. I also sent an e-mail to myself titled “Do Not Open For Two Weeks from 6-7-18”. Inside, I put the link to Dr. Oz’s website. I think it would be unethical to call in sick without a legitimate reason. I’m just trying to help validate the Ivy League scholastic system with my support of their progeny’s scientific and medical acumen. According to his Wikipedia page, he has a bachelors degree from Harvard, an MD from U. of Penn., and is currently a professor at Columbia Medical School.

  15. Mus Musculos says:

    Ask John LaMattina about Dr. Oz.

  16. Former wizard of oz says:

    What’s so incredibly sad about this for me is Dr. Oz saved my fathers life, operating on him for over 20 hours for an aortic aneurysm, in 1993. I can’t believe how much he has fallen since then, especially since his work led me to becoming a scientific researcher.

    1. Daniel says:

      All I can say to that is one name: Doctor Ben Carson.

      Just because one is brilliant for a time does not mean he’s going to stay that way.

      I just have to wonder how he slid down that slope to what he has become, “dear” Dr. Oz, I mean.

      Right now, I’d sooner trust the curtain. (Bonus points if you got the reference, hint, think Baum)

  17. Mr. Gladstone says:

    Derek – I think you forgot a key word in your title to this post: Even.

  18. Peter S. Shenkin says:

    He’s not an heir of Hippocrates. He’s actually an heir of Hypocrites.

  19. Dr. Osmium says:

    He should start hawking photoredox as a general activation mode if he wants to really scrape the bottom of the barrel

  20. Gene says:

    I’m just waiting for him to start promoting retrophrenology.

  21. Wile E Coyote, Genius says:

    Gosh Derek, I don’t see what you’re all upset about. Aren’t you an amateur astrologer with your telescope and looking at all those stars and such?

    1. Some idiot says:

      To quote Sherlock Holmes:

      “A distinct touch, Watson!”


  22. Ozzy says:

    Classic elitish bashing of someone who offers a sliver of hope to those that are literally hopeless, and always will be. You have a better idea, you could approve your super awesome science cure tommorow. But spare us the callous ” im better than you all, cause i know a thing or two ” rant. At least Oz stopped to save a bus, i dont think you would have been bothered.

    1. loupgarous says:

      Mehmet Oz’s modus operandi, unfortunately, is to offer no hope to those who are literally hopeless while taking money from them. There’s no excuse for the man. He literally knows better than to think his medical astrology and snake-oil cures will add a second of longevity to anyone’s life, and yet he sells this crap to scared and ill people anyway.

    2. Valentinian says:

      “Better to sell lies to the desperate than tell them the truth” is a pretty weird approach to medical ethics.

    3. oops says:

      It’s a miracle! Cure your BS today simply by labeling anyone who points out that you’re talking BS as “elitists”.

  23. Refute it please says:

    “Science is basically snake oil that thousands of believing people have put years of work into building evidence and making it work.” Refute it, and i will renounce my ways of ignorance.

    1. T says:

      Stop using the internet.

      1. Refuteitplease says:

        Ah, but you didnt refute it though. Fail.

      2. Refute it please says:

        See, you great men of science types cant even comprehend a basic question about your own viewpoints. You just went on for paragraph after paragraph exploring every aspect of your views, and then some deplorable offers one dumb perfuctory challenge and you cant be bothered to even examine an alternative view, let alone formulate a response.

        1. Some idiot says:

          Where are your placebo-controlled double-blinded studies on statistically-significant populations which show the results to which you are referring? Because if they don’t exist (or of sufficiently poor quality to render them meaningless) then you have to up your game a bit before coming up with such claims… Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I have not seen that sort of evidence yet.

    2. refute what? says:

      Gravity and other forces work regardless of thousands of believing scientists spending years to study it. What are Zodiac signs without people looking at them? A bunch of randomly selected stars.

    3. Valentinian says:

      Simple: science works even if you don’t believe in it. You can give science-based medicine to people incapable of believing in it (the unconscious for instance) and it will still work. You can’t give it to people who actively disbelieve and it will still work (no one can, through simple belief, resist unconsciousness when administered isoflurane for instance).

      Unless you mean “Science is snake oil with evidence”, because that’s nonsense: if it has significant reliable evidence, it isn’t snake oil.

      1. Valentinian says:

        *You can give it to people who actively disbelieve

    4. Refuter says:

      First, snake oil by definition is something that doesn’t work for the stated purpose. So saying years of effort can build evidence and make it work is contradictory.

      Second, that’s not even the way science works.

      Third, I am only reading your weird comment by virtue of the accumulated advances of computer SCIENCE.

  24. Crocodile Chuck says:

    Yet a Chemistry Nobel Prize winner believes in astrology, too.

    Guess who? 😉

    1. Refute it says:

      Well, Kerry Mullis thought he was abducted by aliens.

    2. e says:

      And I believe I’ll have another drink. Care to guess which of us is more likely to be correct?

      1. Some idiot says:

        I’ll drink to that!!!


  25. The Iron Chemist says:

    Yeah, this country needs to smarten the #$%@ up.

    1. Bagger Vance says:

      Lol, “this country” needs to smarten up

  26. Anonymous says:

    Ever since the untimely disappearance of the sabertoothed cats, evolution has been looking for alternate means of culling the human herd. Dr Oz and web sites like this one are part of this endless quest to make us ever more “sapiens”. In 2000 years their foresight will be recognize…

    1. Wallace Grommet says:

      Frequency of what? Sound? Flatulence? Radio waves? According to that article, humans are subwoofers….

  27. Woody says:

    Maybe it was just a way for pulling in the astrology demographic that would not ordinarily watch a “health” show. You folks take this guy’s influence far too seriously. It’s a talk show, entertainment, a diversion from the drudgery of laundry and housework for the average viewer. No one in America – no one – takes this stuff seriously. Find some “real” fake science to write about. And the next time you burn an hour of your lives watching Dr. Oz, turn it into a drinking game!

    1. Lawrence says:

      If you believe no one is really paying attention positively to Oz, you are only deluding yourself. Idiots are yet among us and their lord is Oz,

    2. Anonymous says:

      “No one in America – no one – takes this stuff seriously.” But Oz and others seriously take their money: the US nutriceuticals market was around $65 B in 2015 (and expected to exceed $103 B by 2024). (The 2016 global figure was $200 B.) There are occasional studies that show a health benefit (e.g., acai berries) but the conclusions of those studies are undermined by the fact that most commercial “acai berry” supplements neither contain any acai berry components nor have a chemical profile resembling natural acai berries at all (i.e., bait and switch)!

      Those nutriceutical market reports (and some claim $500+ B) lead me off topic to suggest a new topic for Derek to consider: Market Reports! There are Dr. Oz-like companies selling the latest and greatest insider info about your research topic that often seem to get numbers that no one else will share. (1) I needed some numbers for a proposal and got an outdated report thru the library (more than $10,000 if purchased). I knew some industry insiders (chemists) at the largest producers who would not tell me anything about the real numbers. I tracked down the author of the outdated market report and asked him where he got his figure for that commodity and he basically said, “I made it up.” I think he actually said, “I estimated it.” The best info I could get was that his estimate was way off. (2) For another proposal, I referred to a commercial market report summary (‘only $20k for the full report!’). I was at a meeting where I met the Pres of the company that dominates that field and we had a friendly chat. I asked him for his take on the market report. He got a chuckle out of it and said that no one ever contacted him to ask about the market size and that the numbers were probably close to 10x too high. The number seemed preposterously high to me, but a bigger $ market makes for a more important proposal, right? Bigger $ market numbers are better to get a higher valuation if you are looking for investors, or to be acquired, or to boost an IPO. How many times have Billion Dollar Molecules turned out to be $50 – $100 M molecules?

      Sorry. We now return to our regularly scheduled program …

  28. Paul Wever says:

    Does Dr. Oz even have a valid medical license? You would think that after shilling all this snake oil on an unsuspecting public, a medical board would pull it for medical fraud.

  29. Rubidium says:

    Maybe Ben Carson and Oz can team up and look for ancient aliens too. I have a dousing rod they can borrow.

    1. Jj2105 says:

      Oz is to medicine what Bernie Sanders is to economics

    2. Lawrence says:

      Makes good sense to me!!!!!!!!!

  30. Should I really put my name to this post? says:

    I meant to comment on this yesterday but just didn’t find the time. I see a few people have trolled in support of Oz, but I’d like to put forth a more sincere (and more uncomfortable) postulate. We (perhaps more than the general public) are familiar with the limits of modern medicine. And as a society we have almost gone out of our way to make it miserable to administer, from the bureaucracy to the rigid schedules to the fasting/side effects/travel time/etc, and in the end the gain over zero intervention is often modest. And in some cases, the placebo effect is more powerful than any mechanistic effect.
    If someone were promoting booze and sex toys as remedies for sick people in place of modern medical treatment (whether they were a doctor or not), many of us would recognize this as an obvious attempt to sell an improved quality of life for whatever time the patient had left (setting aside your personal opinion of booze and sex toys) rather than an attempt to actually prolong that time. And hey, if you can get a strong placebo effect out of the booze and sex toys, that’s a big bonus.
    This forum paints Oz’ customers as helpless fools who don’t know any better, being manipulated and cheated by an evil cretin who does. This premise relies on the assumption that these millions of people are utterly incapable of making rational, informed decisions about their own health. Perhaps a more likely premise is that most of these people can make rational decisions about their health, and have determined from observation and personal experience that taking a cheap and convenient fairy dust and trying to believe it will work is preferable to the insults of modern medicine and the meager benefits it will provide for their condition. Compared to co-pays or even local medical travel expenses, the cost of a book and some fairy dust is pretty small and would not preclude paying for ‘real’ medical care as well, if the patient wanted it. And to succeed in the “trying to believe it will work” part, the beliefs need to be singular and widespread, which means the payments all go to a small group selling a single set of fairy dust to a huge audience. Hence, that small group will get really rich.
    Most of us find it too galling to accept the idea that spending the rest of a short life dwelling on daily horoscopes would be better than pursuing the medical treatments we’ve spent our careers creating–so galling that we dismiss the idea out of hand and say that it’s just the lies of a greedy, immoral (and apparently omnipotent) cretin. But I find it difficult to believe that Oz (or any of his colleagues) are so powerful that they can create such a massive market out of thin air. They succeed in selling because people want what they’re selling, not the other way around. Perhaps this is a sobering demonstration that the perceived value of modern medical care is not nearly as high as those of us creating it would like to believe.

    1. Vader says:

      There is no logical inconsistency in recognizing the value of the placebo effect, and the freedom of folks to choose to believe, while regarding Oz as a cynical opportunist.

  31. patrick says:

    I’ve occasionally watched the Dr. OZ show. It’s ok information about mixing chia seeds in with my protein smoothies but I certainly have never purchased any of the brand products that he’s selling. General info commercial to watch while I’m burning calories riding on my stationary bike 🙂

  32. Jj2105 says:

    Is that his actual last name, or did he choose a stage name as a cynical homage to the flim flam Wizard?

    1. jmowreader says:

      Jj2105, it’s his real name. According to his Wikipedia page, his father is Mustafa Oz and his mother is Suna Oz.

  33. GrimmCreeper says:

    No BS, but the guy did a heart transplant for someone in my family at Columbia Presbyterian almost 20 years ago. And the ticker is still going strong. I don’t get it.

    1. Vader says:

      It’s the Linus Pauling Phenomenon.

      Pauling did genuinely brilliant work on chemical bonding that genuinely deserved the Nobel Prize.

      He then got involved in anti-nuclear activism that got him a second Nobel Prize. Your views on that may vary with your political policy prefences.

      Then he got deeply involved in Vitamin C crackpottery.

      Moral: It’s possible to be a bonafide genius in one scientific field, and not recognize that you are not even competent in other scientific fields.

  34. AJB says:

    My former father-in-law also had heart surgery done by Dr. Oz, back when Oz was practicing at Long Island College Hospital. I have only vague memories of meeting the man, but he was a competent surgeon, once upon a time.

  35. qvxb says:

    Even the Romans knwe astrology was useless in medical diagnosis. As Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves …”.

  36. Tourettes of Chemistry says:

    ‘Tis the Season of Commencements and this excerpt seemed to align somewhat nicely with this topic:

    Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas—which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn’t work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how¬ witch doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked—or very little of it did.

    What a joker!

    From almost 50 years ago…

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