Blog | Tuesday, April 19, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Physicians are peeking behind Dr. Oz's curtain


A handful of physicians are collaborating to take Mehmet Oz, MD, to task on what they're calling outlandish claims and bad medical advice. Their suggestion is to no longer pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, at the blog Science-Based Medicine went after Dr. Oz for hosting segments about faith healing and consulting psychics. Dr. Gorski pulls no punches, saying, "Dr. Oz has in some ways imitated Oprah and in some ways gone her one better (one worse, really) in promoting the Oprah-fication of medicine. And this season has been a particularly bad one for science-based medicine on The Dr. Oz Show."

(Dr. Mehmet Oz may be using his "Degree in Thinkology" to come up with some of his show topics.)

Val Jones, MD, the woman behind the curtain at GetBetterHealth.com, joined the crusade against Dr. Oz, saying that he'd descended from "competent and caring cardiothoracic surgeon whose research interest was reducing preoperative stress" to "America’s chief snake oil salesman." She is organizing a campaign to drown out the bad information with better messages. (As a disclosure, ACP Internist's blog contributes to and draws posts from GetBetterHealth.com.)

ACP Member Peter A. Lipson, MD, also wanted to clear the air about primary and secondary prevention of heart attacks, "one of an internist's most important tasks, given that heart disease is one of the three top killers of North Americans."

Dr. Lipson writes that Dr. Oz's recommended advice too simplistic and over-reaching. Dr. Lipson's advice: "Everyone knows that good eating and exercise are good. Having someone repeat it over and over, and telling you it is a sure thing to prevent heart attacks is idiocy. Set goals, aim toward them, and use the data to guide you."

Bryan Vartabedian, MD, didn't originally take up the cause, but he did share a post with his Twitter audience. He found himself being threatened professionally, in turn, as persons unnamed contacted him directly about repeating attacks on Dr. Oz.

He wrote, "The last two DMs [direct messages, in Twitter-speak] made me realize how health celebrity is potentially dangerous for the consuming public. The celebrity offers unique authority in the eyes of the public. When patients trust a source like Mehmet Oz the implications for health behavior can be dramatic--both for good and bad. Even physicians may be disinclined to question their position."

(Dr. Oz must be conferring with his peers on this.)

But once physicians began to peek behind Dr. Oz's curtains, they may not be able to stop. Or to win, either. Celebrity medical doctors such as Andrew Weil, Drew Pinsky and Deepak Chopra (all trained in internal medicine, by the way, and Dr. Chopra is an ACP Fellow ) command huge audiences. Even if a vanguard of medical bloggers dislike considering alternative medicine as a topic, or even outright unscientific snake out, they may not be able to drown it out.