Articles

John Oliver skewers Dr. Oz for his hawking of diet supplements

As regular readers of this blog know, Dr. Mehmet Oz had a very, very bad day last week, in which he received a major tongue lashing from Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) for the scientifically unsupported and irresponsible hyperbole he dishes out day after day on his syndicated daytime television show. Personally, I was tempted to pile on myself, but had to content myself with enjoying a couple of posts from a super secret blog in the run-up to the hearing (inviting Dr. Oz to testify is “like asking Al Capone to testify about U.S. tax policy or Stanislaw Burzynski about clinical trial design and ethics”), right after the hearing, and looking at the fallout from the hearing. I had even thought of asking my “friend” to combine the last two into an SBM-worthy post, but by the time that thought had occurred to me, the moment had passed.

One of the best takes I’ve seen on the whole “Oz-fest” last week comes from John Oliver on his HBO show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. It’s a really long segment that takes up the last half of his show and features—don’t ask why—George R. R. Martin and a tap dancing Steve Buscemi. It’s hilariously spot on:

Most SBM readers will enjoy it. I promise. Oliver even correctly identifies Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) as tools of the supplement industry and explains why dietary supplements in the U.S. are largely unregulated and the FDA and FTC have such limited powers to do anything about them preemptively.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Humor, Nutrition, Science and the Media

Leave a Comment (84) ↓

84 thoughts on “John Oliver skewers Dr. Oz for his hawking of diet supplements

  1. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Loved it, great stuff. This kind of humor packs a wallop. Chow Babe similarly.

  2. Frederick says:

    I seriously like this Guy, it is not the first time he does use skepticism and make is into a funny segment, It is hilarious and also educating. I seriously laugh until I cry.
    It is the “punch” in the face The wizard of Oz was deserving for a long time!
    I’m happy that Skeptics have a friend In the TV industry!

  3. Cervantesm says:

    Oz has no shame. I’m sure he’ll just carry on unencumbered by truth, goodness or beauty.

  4. Jeff says:

    Wow! What a rant by John Oliver. While some of it is quite funny, it’s completely untrue to say that supplements are “largely unregulated”. It is true that supplements are not regulated like drugs (which seems to be what some SBM bloggers want).

    “The FDA has little regulatory control over the contents of supplements until someone gets sick from them”. Obviously Oliver knows nothing about supplement labeling requirements or Good Manufacturing Practices.

    He implies the FTC can’t or won’t go after companies making false or exaggerated claims. Really?
    http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Regulation/FTC-files-suit-against-marketers-of-green-coffee-bean-product?nocount

    While green coffee bean extracts may be giving rats diabetes, their effects on human subjects is more positive:
    http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/Could-coffee-protect-DNA-from-damage?nocount

    1. Chris says:

      Wow, a convincing argument from a supplement sales site! Who would have thunk it?

      Jeff, it would have been more effective if you actually posted research from an actual scientific source.

      1. David Gorski says:

        One wonders if Jeff works for Nutraingredients-USA.com, given his penchant for citing it as a source. :-)

        Of course, several of us have written about the sorry state of dietary supplement regulation in the US. (Just search for “DSHEA of 1994″ or peruse the “Herbs & supplements” tag.) The funny thing is that John Oliver got the history of the DSHEA of 1994 right, particularly how the supplement industry successfully used advertising and its lackeys in Congress, Sen. Harkin and Sen. Hatch, to forestall any real regulation and to greatly weaken the already wimpy regulation that was there. It’s so rare to see anyone get that right.

    2. Calli Arcale says:

      ““The FDA has little regulatory control over the contents of supplements until someone gets sick from them”. Obviously Oliver knows nothing about supplement labeling requirements or Good Manufacturing Practices. ”

      1) That’s a bare minimum, in my opinion. You’re saying that yay, they’re regulated as well as potato chips. I dunno about you, but I’d consider that a rather low standard for something people are taking as medicine.

      2) Did you miss the part in Oliver’s rant where he mentioned studies where scientists found that 1/3 of the supplements tested contained no trace of the plant claimed on the label? Yeah, there are rules, and obviously the FDA can’t enforce them effectively. Gary Null himself was hospitalized for his Vitamin D supplement containing several orders of magnitude more Vitamin D than the label claimed, to the point where it was toxic.

      Obviously, the regulation is only somewhat superior to the days of the Old West with the snake oil salesmen and their patent medicines.

    3. Lawrence says:

      Given the rash of issues that have arisen on the Supplement side of the house (the 1/3 of products tested not containing their stated ingredients is just the tip of the iceberg)…..I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the “industry successfully regulating itself.”

    4. Jeff says:

      The general consensus here is that
      1) supplements are drugs. They are not part of any regular diet and alter your bodies function. Many have drug-drug interactions not necessarily listed.
      2) In your examples all FDA authority is reactionary. It only comes about once large scale fraud or injury has been done. This is silly given these are expensive pharmacological products. The FDA does not have the means to take initiative to investigate every product as it comes out. If the companies are not required to fund and seek FDA analysis prior to marketing, you can be sure this will continue as the status quo.

      As long as a supplement doesn’t make people sick due to poor quality control, drug interactions, and/or outright tainted, the FDA will not do anything.

      I am fine with most being OTC, but they should have to pass quality checks and labeling that they are delivering a consistent product without unlabeled fillers and have been tested for safety/efficacy of any claims.
      The NYTimes study basically amounts to a majority of supplements being frauds considering their labeling alone.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/herbal-supplements-are-often-not-what-they-seem.html?_r=1&

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        1) supplements are drugs. They are not part of any regular diet and alter your bodies function. Many have drug-drug interactions not necessarily listed.

        Not true, a lot of us here, including myself, think that a lot of supplements are placebos and have no effects. They’re essentially fiber supplements, and nothing more.

        1. Calli Arcale says:

          From the FDA/FTC’s perspective, a substance is defined as a drug not by it’s action but by how it is sold. If it’s claiming to treat your psoriasis, it’s a drug. If it’s claiming to improve the sheen of your hair, it’s a cosmetic. If it’s claiming to be delicious, it’s a food.

          These products are not being taken for cosmetic purposes or as food. They are not dietary supplements in any reasonable sense; people are taking them in a similar manner and with similar expectations as they take things such as Tylenol and Benadryl; they expect them to work chemical magic to relieve symptoms or prevent disease or somesuch.

          So they are drugs. Whether or not they are *effective* drugs is another question, and one which is rarely properly addressed by the industry that sells them, perhaps because it fears learning that they are not.

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            It’d be nice if they were treated all as “purified chemicals” and thus assessed on the basis of their effects. It doesn’t matter if you’re consuming aristolochia as a salad or as a weight loss supplement, if it causes kidney failure – it’s a problem.

            1. Calli Arcale says:

              I think that would take us too far the other way. Trying to regulate all foods the way we want to regulate drugs would be impractical, to put it mildly. Grandfather in the stuff we’re already eating, make new stuff prove itself reasonably safe before being allowed, and if old stuff turns out to be dangerous, address it then.

              1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Mmmmmm…i know too many ‘foods’ that have health effects to be completely comfortable with that. Possibly all Black Swans, which is why I remember them. I did specify high concentration as well, which is a big factor. Hard to OD on mint leaves, much easier when you have access to mint essential oil.

    5. simba says:

      Jeff- “little regulatory control over the contents of supplements”…. “supplement *labeling* requirements.”

      How is that at all relevant? Oliver’s saying that the FDA has little control over what people are selling inside the bottle, unless it has actually caused harm. Not about what they say about it on the label.

    6. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      “The FDA has little regulatory control over the contents of supplements until someone gets sick from them”. Obviously Oliver knows nothing about supplement labeling requirements or Good Manufacturing Practices.

      Isn’t that purely voluntary? What kind of oversight does the FDA have over that process? And obviously it’s kinda worthless considering herbal supplements don’t contain what they claim to 33% of the time. The industry is self-regulated, which means it is not regulated. And all the GMP in the world won’t make the supplements magically effective – for which there is zero requirements. That’s like claiming your flying carpets can’t fly, but man, do we ever have a high thread count.

      He implies the FTC can’t or won’t go after companies making false or exaggerated claims. Really?
      http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Regulation/FTC-files-suit-against-marketers-of-green-coffee-bean-product?nocount

      The problems with that:
      1) The article makes great hash about how there are two studies, and the second one the FTC didn’t criticize! Well yeah, but since the first was shit…
      2) Even if the FTC succeeds in their attempt to pull the drug – the manufacturer can merely switch to the “structure/function” argument, slap on a Miranda warning, and with a nod and a wink to consumers, drive a truck through the loophole in the relevant legislation.

      I honestly don’t know why supplement manufacturers are so resistant to requiring them to prove their fiber does something before selling it.

      Just kidding – I know exactly why, money, the greedy assholes.

      As for the second article you link to – did you not notice something odd? One study compared magic coffee and water, and found no difference in weight. The second study compared regular coffee and magic coffee and found a significant reduction in weight. So which is it? So…yeah. Your preliminary studies are contradictory and stupid.

      1. m vogell says:

        “The industry is self regulated, which means it isn’t regulated at all.”

        The FDA is funded entirely by the drug companies. If you believe that isn’t self regulation, I’ve got a space ship to sell you, along with the bridge.

        1. Harriet Hall says:

          “The FDA is funded entirely by the drug companies”

          Fact check: The FDA’s federal budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2012 totaled $4.36 billion, while the proposed 2014 budget is $4.7 billion. About $2 billion of this budget is generated by user fees. Pharmaceutical firms pay the majority of these fees, which are used to expedite drug reviews.

          1. Calli Arcale says:

            It’s a bit like saying that the US park system is paid for by national park entrance fees….

      2. stanmrak says:

        from mercola.com:

        Pro-pharmaceutical spokesmen like Dr. Paul Offit and US Senator Dick Durbin have repeatedly stated that dietary supplements are unregulated and need stricter oversight due to the hazards they pose to your health.

        This is patently false, and you only have to look at the very first sentence on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website4 to settle that dispute. There, it plainly states that:

        “FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering ‘conventional’ foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

        The manufacturer of a dietary supplement or dietary ingredient is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe before it is marketed.
        FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.”

        The FDA can, and has, shut down supplement makers that do not meet these regulations.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          from mercola.com:

          You mean vitamin-shilling, hugely conflict-of-interest-filled mercola.com, the site that Joe Mercola uses to make millions based on unproven assertions and nigh-miracle claims that rival Dr. Oz but we have even less reason to respect because he directly profits from it rather than merely increasing an audience?

          That mercola.com?

          Pro-pharmaceutical spokesmen like Dr. Paul Offit and US Senator Dick Durbin have repeatedly stated that dietary supplements are unregulated and need stricter oversight due to the hazards they pose to your health.

          It’s not merely health that concerns at least me – it’s also economics. These supplements are a colossal waste of money and that alone seems worthy of some sort of consumer protection. Some also provide direct dangers to health (hello ephedra and Aristolochia) that are not recognized by either the consumer or the company selling them (hello St. John’s Wort, hope there aren’t any HIV+ patients out there who are mildly depressed about it). In addition, I wonder how many consumers realize just how worthless these supplements are, just how unproven they are, just how unjustified the claims made are? I wonder how many realize that because of DSHEA, there is essentially no oversight over safety and absolutely zero over efficacy concerns.

          I also like how Joe Mercola includes that hypocritical dig at Offit and Durbin, as if their point were invalidated because the might be making money off of this somehow (I don’t know about Durbin, but Offit only makes royalties off of a single vaccine he designed that saves many chiildren from disease and even death, but substantially makes his living as a salaried researcher and author). Meanwhile Joe Mercola’s massive mansion is paid for exclusively by his vitamin-shilling activities. Nice Joe, stay classy.

          This is patently false, and you only have to look at the very first sentence on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website4 to settle that dispute. There, it plainly states that:

          “FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering ‘conventional’ foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

          Sure, that’s factually true but deceptive. The powers of regulation stated in the first sentence are hamstrung with the sentence, the “different set of regulations” compared to food and drugs. That’s rather the point – despite being sold as drugs (and yes, supplements are sold my manufacturers under the guise of having drug-like effects), there are a different set of regulations which require no proof of safety or efficacy.

          That’s the point.

          The manufacturer of a dietary supplement or dietary ingredient is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.”

          Stan, are you in favour of self-regulation by Big Pharma? Do you think pharmaceuticals would be safer, or more effective, if they were regulated by the companies themselves? Because the “safety” requirements are not based on carefully-controlled studies in test tubes, rats or people. They’re based on the manufacturer saying “fuck yeah, this is totally safe!” It’s only after people have died that the FDA can begin the court battle to remove a product from the market. It’s not like they can say “we’ve seen an association, let’s suspend sales until we can test it”. Want proof of how ethical and safe supplement companies can be in a self-regulation environment? How about not putting in the bottle what it says on the label, then trying to prevent the publication of a study that points this out? Or perhaps forgetting to mention 13,000 complaints about a supplement that a company had accumulated over several years. The problem isn’t “mean Big Pharma versus nice Big Supplement”, the problem is companies are assholes who are only in it to make money and governments exist to protect consumers from their greed and indifference. Why do you have a problem with this?

          And again, this is only safety. What does Joe “Hypocrite” Mercola have to say about efficacy? Does he not care whether the supplements do what they claim to do in actual human beings? What’s more important – that consumers get a meaningful, functional product, or that Joe can make a couple more millions selling fiber and pretty packaging so he can add another wing to his call center?

          I think it’s the money, I think he cares more about making money than he does ensuring the health of human beings.

          The FDA can, and has, shut down supplement makers that do not meet these regulations.

          Sure, after people have died and a lengthy court battle occurs. Remember ephedra?

          Call me crazy, but for some reason I think there is merit in proving something works and that it doesn’t kill or sicken people before it is sold. But I guess I’m just wacky that way, and you clearly don’t understand my point.

          1. Jeff says:

            “It’s only after people have died that the FDA can begin the court battle to remove a product from the market.”

            Bullcrap.

            The FDA can seize products and shut down companies because of adulteration, misbranding, or GMP violations. The agency can do this EVEN IF NO ADVERSE REACTIONS OCCUR.

            1. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm339887.htm

            2. http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Regulation/Supplement-maker-Kabco-shut-down-over-GMP-violations

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Yes, CAN. Who tests the products for adulteration, purity, dose and standards? Who inspects the plants for GMP? That’s a little like saying anyone is free to visit the International Space Station, as long as they pay for their own trip up. It’s disingenuous to portray an agency as having the power to shut down whatever without mentioning that it is so egregiously understaffed that it will never have the manpower to do so in an effective manner.

              A little like having a seatbelt in the car but no law you have to buckle up. Or bragging about your shiny speed limit signs without mentioning your utter lack of state troopers.

        2. Frederick says:

          Does Mercola pays you? does the 32 billion dollars industry pay you like they paid those 2 senator? You Supplement Shill!

          If you believe the pharmaceutical pays everybody ( they have to paid so much peoples, if we listen to people like you, it is surprising they even make profits) than we have as much reason, ( even more since the regulation are ridiculous, the porn site analogy of Oliver is spot on) to believe they have shills. In other word stop the freaking double standard!

          Since you seem to sell Supplement yourself, having to prove that your magical pill do something, and have independent analysis of the content of then etc, goes against your business, so in a way you are in absolutely no position to argument on this topic since you are totally in conflict of interest.
          And Mercola will do exactly what he accuse Pharmaceutical to do, twist the truth to his own gain, double standard again. That’s is exactly why we need More Zeal from FDA ( health Canada here) and the FTC. Stop thinking about your freaking profit margin and think about the people you are selling you unregulated pills.

          Oh And I hope that the pharmaceutical participate in the FDA funding, I don,t think the tax payer should completely pay for assuming the cost of safety test on product. Same thing goes for safety testing of cars. This does not mean they decide how the test are conducted and what are the Rules.

          1. CHotel says:

            Man, I wish the pharmaceutical industry was paying us all off. I wouldn’t mind a hot tub.

            1. Frederick says:

              Yeah, I quit my job last august to go back to college, and ow they hired me back for the summer, but they screwed me and I have only 70% of my old pay, So Yeah Johnson and Johnson, I need money! lol ;-)

    7. Nell on Wheels says:

      If you believe that supplement manufacturers are adhering to “supplement labeling requirements or Good Manufacturing Practices,” stop on over at ConsumerLab.com and see how many supplements contain substantially lower or no amounts of claimed ingredients and/or contain dangerous contaminants. And then take a minute to ponder how many people are paying astronomical amounts of money for those very same products.

  5. Travis says:

    Awesome. I watched this and then his Hawking interview and then checked to see how new the show is (April 2014). I think I’ll be watching more of his stuff

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Travis:

      Make sure and check out his clip on climate change. Oliver really gets it!

      1. Travis says:

        I did, and I agree. When he only had Bill Nye I was afraid it was just a joke :p

  6. jonstewartoliverfan says:

    Wow, I can’t believe the government allows this industry to stay in business! People should not be able to freely ingest chemicals for medicinal purposes unless they have been approved by the government and prescribed by a doctor! Marijuana should be totally legal, though, like alcohol.

    1. simba says:

      It’s more that if someone sells you alcohol, it shouldn’t be methyl alcohol in whiskey, and they shouldn’t tell you it cures your cancer.

      But hey, if you want people to lie to you, that’s fine. Why not let everyone else have the right to make a choice about it?

      1. Travis says:

        To add to this… quite frankly, I’m a fan of truth and would rather any medicine or alternative “medicine” to at least have reasonable, peer-reviewed evidence for its efficacy beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t think people should be allowed to sell drugs that don’t work just like i don’t think people should be able to sell toys, games, tools, etc. that don’t work (without explicitly stating it doesn’t work).

  7. Walter says:

    Yay!

    For my money, John Oliver is one of the best satirists alive today. He’s no Borowitz; he actually puts in the work.

    People who enjoy this should watch his take-down of FIFA from…the last episode maybe?

    At any rate, here’s to momentum!

  8. Bill says:

    Good grief–what a funny and devastating video clip. I have to note that Jon Stewart has given birth to two offspring (Colbert) who are far funnier than he is. I just wish Oliver’s show wasn’t on HBO, cuz I don’t subscribe.

  9. Anna says:

    Oh wow! Thanks for this — it really made my day.

    And now I have another thing to dislike about Mel Gibson. ;)

  10. Sandymere says:

    Great stuff! Humour is a very effective way to highlight quackery; it brings evidence/science in an acceptable format.

  11. jacknpoe says:

    NEVER trust authorities only because they are authorities.

    1. stanmrak says:

      but you can trust a comedian?

      1. Travis says:

        You’re missing the point. You should double check first that there are references and that they are reliable. If you don’t have the time/expertise to do that yourself trust the consensus from the expert community (medical doctors)

      2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        It’s not so much that one should trust a comedian – it’s that based on our knowledge, this comedian is summarizing the issue in a factually correct and entertaining way. Claiming Dr. Gorski is recommending Oliver’s diatribe because he is a comedian is dead wrong – Dr. Gorski is recommending it because this comedian gets it right.

        Smarten up! Stop misrepresenting people, you lying shill.

        1. Frederick says:

          And it’s kind of depressing when a comedian gets in right, but not a MD.

  12. stanmrak says:

    Dr. Oz, above all else, is a hustler and an opportunist. You have to be to have your own daytime TV show. I’d compare him to Don King the boxing promoter, someone who seldom had anything nice said about him. Don King was wise enough, tho, to utter this response to his critics, “It doesn’t matter what they say about you, as long as they mention your name.” Every mention of Dr. Oz anywhere in the media, even here, helps to make him more successful. He’s not going anywhere as long as he gets the ratings.

    1. Windriven says:

      Makes me wish there was a hell.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      How is he different from you, stan? You’re also quite free with the unproven advice and promotion of supplements with shaky or absent evidence of efficacy. As far as I can tell, he’s got a better suit and a TV show, but you’re both whoring for unproven nonsense.

      1. stanmrak says:

        What can I say to someone who has to resort to name-calling to support his ideas? Grow up, William – you’re giving this site a bad reputation.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Sorry Stan, but WLU is pretty spot on. The only difference between you and Oz is that he has an MD and more money.

          1. Frederick says:

            And at least Sometimes Oz do give good health advices. I remember him explain medical things with easy to understand way, with good model and CGI etc. If his show was always like that, it will be incredible!
            Oz is bad because he promote crank ( when you invite dangerous peoples like Mike Adams on your show, you lose all the good you made ) and pseudo-science to millions of people, but Stan he’s no better because all he promote are pseudo-science and loony conspiracy theories. he does not have anything we can say “at least sometime he has done this good think”.

          2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            And a TV show.

        2. AdamG says:

          Stan: Oz is a hustler and an opportunist!
          WLU: Stan’s behavior is similar to Oz’s.
          Stan: Name calling means you lose!

          Kind of an own goal there, Stan.

          BTW do you have a source for that Don King quote?

        3. Windriven says:

          You’re hysterical, stan! WLU is giving the site a bad name? You’ve got to be kidding. Jabberers like you and Fast Buck and Squirrely Rodrigues drive the level of discourse here down to middle school level. Commenters like William are who keeps the site from getting a bad name. Somebody has to hose the place out after you and the clown posse stink it up.

          1. Cathy Louise says:

            Yep, agree. As a newbie to this site, I appreciate getting some good sound science-based info (and a little honest humour makes it fun). Thank goodness there are good people, like the vets on this site, who continue to take the time and energy to set the record straight! Thank you…now to keep reading here…

        4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          To be specific stan, I didn’t say you were a “whore”. I said you were “whoring for unproven nonsense”. There’s a difference. One is a description of who you are, the other is a(n accurate) description of what you do.

          I, and others, have attempted to use logic, facts and scientific research to respond to you, only to be met with “YOU CAN’T TRUST THE COMPANIES OR THE SCIENCE (unless they support what I already believe)”. You consistently dismiss studies that contradict your pre-existing beliefs but are quite keen to link to studies that support them, and that’s not how science is done. That’s how marketing is done. And in my opinion, “whoring for a product” is the very definition of marketing. But perhaps I’m idiosyncratic.

  13. Thomas says:

    Did you know that in some countries it is actually illegal to have advertising for drugs? If you go to Europe you will find no television ads for ant-depressants and whatever else. The consensus is that it is up to the physician (and patient) to make a decision about prescription drugs and not for the companies to distort choice in that way.
    This is not to say that there is not a whole lot of lobbying of doctors going on as well, but abolishing drug ads would be a nice place to start.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      @Thomas:

      To my knowledge the US is the only country to allow prescription drug advertising. I am not sure about OTC drugs. If you know different, I’d be interested to know just so I can amend my understanding as necessary.

      1. CHotel says:

        Canada is really weird. Technically all 3 types* of Rx ads are all illegal under the Food and Drugs Act, but the latter two are somehow legal under policy statements regarding the enforcement of said Act (which I wouldn’t think would be a legal possibility). But even if they did enforce the law, we get all the ads from American TV anyway. Great summary article here: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/169/5/425.full (yes, it’s 11 years old. No, nothing has changed.)

        *3 Types are as follows:
        Product Claim: “Take Viagra for ED! But not with nitrates, or your BP might plummet and kill you. Or your erection might not go away and you’ll have to go to the hospital and have a very large needle stuck into your penis to manually drain the blood. And a ton other other bad things too. But take it anyway, because sex!!”

        Reminder: *shows a montage of an old man, brim with vigor, building a fence, teaching his grandson to play catch, and sitting in a porch swing with his arm around his equally old wife* “Androgel, talk to your doctor.”

        Help-Seeking: “There are new treatment options for preventing stroke in those with atrial fibrillation that don’t require blood monitoring. Speak with your doctor today” *SPONSORED BY BRISTOL MYERS-SQUIBB* (Googling Bristol Myers-Squibb + A Fib = Eliquis)

      2. Graham Harris says:

        New Zealand also allows advertising of prescription drugs. Usually, in the form “Ask your doctor if xxx is right for you” or “You don’t have to accept substitutes. Ask for xxx by name”.

      3. Andrey Pavlov says:

        Thanks for the info on Canada and NZ. So it is still very much the minority of countries that advertises prescription medications. I think it should be zero, as I can think of no good reason why they should be advertised.

  14. Ed Whitney says:

    Who all is linking to this video clip? I have seen some politically liberal sites such as crooksandliars, digby, and the Huffington Post (which often promotes non-science based medicine) linking to it, but not conservative sites such as Drudge, Redstate, and Newsmax health.

    Maybe there is a correlation between political leanings and affinity to this video, but I do not know how to explore the question in a systematic way. The Google link function seems to lead nowhere. Perhaps there are internet specialists who know how to examine linkage affinities (certainly there are dissertations being written about this topic). It is a curiosity though.

    1. Travis says:

      Interesting, and I’m of no help. totally interested in knowing!
      I suspect right-wingers wouldn’t link to the video because they wouldn’t like the guy on other grounds (his climate change video and gay marriage video)

      1. KayMarie says:

        I agree that it probably has to do more with his pedigree (from The Daily Show) or the perception of his overall viewpoint than the content of this particular video.

  15. Frederick says:

    Speaking of the wizard, today’s CTV (a canadian channel that that is basically rebroadcast American tv) it was a 2013 episode titled “the things the food industry doesn’t want you to know.” gmo and whatnot fear mongerin. So not only he is trolling in US, he is trolling in Canada. And even if he stopped talking about woo, they will rebroadcast his old episode anyway.

  16. Anon Ymous says:

    I wish people would leave Dr. Oz alone. I am *not* a fan of his, I didn’t even know who he was until this blew up. I’ve known about the healing properties of herbs, plants and flowers for a long time. Nature provides what we need! How is this NOT science????????!!!!!!! Plants have natural chemical compounds that compliment human chemistry. It’s quite simple. Extracts of plant chemical compounds HELP us. I am on Estradiol, which is made from wild yams. My doctor prescribed it to me because it’s estrogenic and I can no longer produce estrogen because I had a total hysterectomy. If plant extracts don’t work, then why the hell did my doctor prescribe it to me, and why did it raise my estrogen level?? I want someone to answer this for me. I demand an answer. It’s not a frickin’ placebo. It’s natural, and it works. I don’t trust pharmaceutical companies. They make HUGE amounts of money off of us, on our illnesses. Look at the side effects of some medications, it’s disturbing! I’ll gladly take my chances with nature.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I’ve known about the healing properties of herbs, plants and flowers for a long time.

      The thing is – if herbs, plants and flowers actually have healing properties, they are acting as drugs and almost certainly have harmful properties as well. For instance, St. John’s Wort was promoted as a mood elevator (and a whole lot of other untested uses), but nobody knew if it was effective or not until testing, and nobody knew it interfered with HIV medication, drugs to reduce the risk of organ transplants being rejected, and photosensitivity. Most of the traditional uses for drugs were based on the doctrine of signatures, the idea that something looking like an eye would treat eye complaints, which is incredibly irrational and unsurprisingly, not a good way to identify medicinal properties. The body is not built well, it reuses receptors throughout the body in different organs, making it extremely unlikely that any drug (or herb) will have one effect, and no side effects. That’s simply not how the body works.

      Nature provides what we need!

      Nature also doesn’t provide what we need, at least not in meaningful amounts. Nature didn’t see fit to provide antibiotics until Flemming isolated and concentrated penicillin. Nature also provides a lot of what we don’t need – like snake venom, smallpox, mandrake root, poisonous mushrooms, and that worm that makes kids go blind. All natural, all pretty unpleasant.

      Given how the living things in nature came to their present forms, an unrelenting drive to reproduce and foster the good of their own species, how do you justify your cliam that “nature provides what we need” rather than “nature will happily kill you and use your corpse to fertilize its seeds if it means more of of the offspring survive”?

      Plants have natural chemical compounds that compliment human chemistry. It’s quite simple. Extracts of plant chemical compounds HELP us.

      See above – extracts of plant compounds will also kill us, and generally must be optimized. Chewing willow bark will alleviate pain, but will also cause stomach and intestinal bleeding; ASA is modified willow bark extract that has been altered to reduce its impact on the gut. Digitalis is extremely useful for treating cardiac events, but has an incredibly narrow therapeutic index – it’s very easy to poison yourself with it. Aristolochia causes kidney damage. The mushroom genus of Amanatia contains several extremely toxic examples, how do these “help” humans?

      Plants produce billions of unique chemical compounds. A tiny percentage of them have chemical effects on humans. An even smaller percentage cause chemical effects that humans think are good or useful, if dosed appropriately. Nature isn’t a magical factory for human use, any more than all rocks are specifically designed to produce sharp cutting edges useful as tools. The reality is humans can use a tiny proportion of nature’s products, merely because of coincidence – not design. Also note that catnip is a drug for cats and useless for humans – does that mean nature is also designed for cats?

      I am on Estradiol, which is made from wild yams.

      Yeah…estradiol isn’t “naturally” from wild yams. You can’t just eat a yam and boost your serum estradiol. A lab has to take the yam, cut it up, spin out specific constituents, heat them to a very specific temperature, at a very specific pressure, and at that point they mimic a human molecule. You can get the same compounds by spinning out the constituents of pregnant horse urine (premarin), which when consumed is chemically broken up by the gut into an exact molecular duplicate of one type of human estrogen.

      If plant extracts don’t work, then why the hell did my doctor prescribe it to me, and why did it raise my estrogen level??

      If plant extracts “work”, then why does it take a medical lab to produce a usable product, rather than merely eating yams? They’re not just getting you to rub the yam on your skin – that would mean plant extracts “work”. It takes millions of dollars worth of sensitive equipment to get from yam to estrogen.

      It’s not a frickin’ placebo. It’s natural, and it works. I don’t trust pharmaceutical companies.

      It’s definitely not a placebo, it’s a chemical mimic of a human hormone. But it’s not natural. Oh, and by the way – it’s made by Big Pharma. It sounds like you’re talking about bioidentical hormones, probably compounded by a pharmacist? Well guess where your pharmacist gets your drugs from – Big Pharma! And did you know you can buy estradiol without compounding, a good idea since compounding introduces substantial risks of the dosing being off.

      You might also be interested in this section of the BHRT wikipedia page, which shows that “natural” is a marketing term, not a scientific one.

      They make HUGE amounts of money off of us, on our illnesses. Look at the side effects of some medications, it’s disturbing! I’ll gladly take my chances with nature.

      Yeah…your compounding pharmacist is charging you a premium to hand-mix products you can get generic versions of for much cheaper. All hormones have side effects, irrespective the source. And really – do you simply dig up estradiol from somewhere, or find it growing on trees, or just eat a bunch of yams and hope for the best? If it’s the latter, then know that yams don’t contain estradiol, they contain diosgenin, which must be modified before it mimics the molecular form of human estrogens. And the source doesn’t matter – it just happens to be cheaper to use yams than horse piss. If your pharmacist could get raw estrogen more cheaply if it was synthesized from raw sewage, I assure you s/he would.

      You’ve been lied to because of economics and marketing, not because of health benefits. Nature is indifferent to you.

      1. Frederick says:

        ” Also note that catnip is a drug for cats and useless for humans – does that mean nature is also designed for cats?”

        OH NO!, you said the C-word… My 4 cats are coming… OH! GOD NO! I don’t have any catnip on me… Please HELP!
        lol Yeah that’s a Drug alright.

      2. agitato says:

        @WLU:
        Wild applause and loud cheering for your superb reply to Anon Ymous.

    2. Calli Arcale says:

      Estradiol works, and you are taking it for a legitimate indication, Anon Ymous. But it’s rather ridiculous to use that as a defense for a man hawking green coffee bean extract as a miracle weight loss drug without a shred of evidence.

      There are definitely plant extracts that work. And there are also extracts that do absolutely nothing but which charlatans want to sell to you anyway. This is not a good thing, and you should not support it merely because you take a drug manufactured using wild yams as a feedstock.

      And nature isn’t benevolent. It’s indifferent, and specific plants can be quite hostile, because they don’t really want to be ground up by humans. Digitalis, found in foxglove, is successfully used to treat many heart patients and has doubtless saved many lives. Digitalis is also what makes foxglove plants deadly poisonous. The same can be said of atropine, of course, an important and widely used drug derived from belladonna, which is better known by its common (and accurate) name of deadly nightshade — the Romans used it both as a cosmetic (since dilated pupils are attractive) and a murder weapon (since wine made from its berries is reportedly both delicious and lethal).

      Absolutely plants work as medicine. They also work as poisons, and one should be very careful with accepting blanket claims about anything based on it being “natural”.

  17. Frederick says:

    This is unrelated, Man I like John Oliver, he his funny, even n touch subject
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kye2oX-b39E

  18. Bill says:

    WLU–Very reasoned, informed, and interesting response to Anon Ymous. I am glad to have found this site. I hope AY will respond to your comments.

  19. Henning says:

    Oliver is great. When I saw the segment, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, did he talk to Steve?”… clearly your media and writing are getting out there and informing.

    “Pendantic” moment: “Hocking” is the word you’re looking for in the title. Hawking refers to hunting with a hawk.
    …Or that wheelchair guy… which was another great segment. : )

  20. n brownlee says:

    ““Pendantic” moment: “Hocking” is the word you’re looking for in the title. Hawking refers to hunting with a hawk.”

    “Hocking” refers to pawning stuff. “Hawking” can refer to hunting with a hawk- or to selling stuff. As in, you hawk your wares. A back-formation from “hawker”, or peddler.

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hawk#English

    1. David Gorski says:

      Exactly. And everyone around here does know my feelings about pedants, don’t they? (HINT: Think my alter-ego.)

    2. Henning says:

      My mistake. I trusted a source that didn’t give a thorough enough definition for hawk and assumed pawn was close enough for hock. I’ll get you yet, Steve.

      1. Henning says:

        Jees christ, I didnt even check the author of this page, just assumed since I got here from SGU… just ignore me… showing myself out.

  21. Lindsay says:

    Wow… Gross. The comments on this blog were (largely) written by a bunch of pompous a-holes.

    Since you guys know it all, why don’t you refocus your oh-so-apparant brilliance on fixing the health care system so that it actually works for the majority; and oh, don’t forget to stop the “appoved” drug industry (which many can hardly afford) from hurting people while your at it, too.

    1. brewandferment says:

      Well, one way of fixing the health care system is to call attention to those who would waste money on “treatments” of various kinds, weight loss or otherwise, that won’t do anything for you. In many cases, those useless treatments are also harmful in addition to being worthless. That’s the focus of this blog. You can find other blogs with the focus you desire if that’s more to your liking.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      The United States doesn’t have a health care system. The citizens of the United States should get one. As someone who lives in a country other than the United States, let me tell you – it is tops. Were I in charge of the United States, and didn’t have to deal with one party who appears to base their entire platform on irrationality and fear, I would ensure that such a system existed.

      As for improving the “approved” drug industry, one good place to start would be to force supplements to be approved before they could be sold, that way we could reduce the amount of money and lives wasted on supplements that don’t do what they claim. As for actual drugs, well the first thing would be changing the rules of the FDA such that the only industry-funded trials that could be used to pass the approval process would be those pre-registered at a database like alltrials.org. That’ll reduce the burying of data somewhat, but won’t do a damned thing for low-frequency adverse effects, which you can’t really do much about anyway.

      And it’s not all pompous assholes who comment here, sometimes there are uninformed idiots too.

      1. Windriven says:

        “The United States doesn’t have a health care system. ”

        A vicious lie! Everyone in the top three deciles has a marvelous health care system.

        And those in the bottom seven are generally allowed to give blood. What more do they want?

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          I’ve said many times that the US combines the best and worst of everything. Two miles over from the cutting edge research institutes of Johns Hopkins are slums where children starve to death.

          I think anyway, my entire knowledge base regarding Baltimore consists of “Johns Hopkins” and “The Wire”.

  22. Supplements actually are well regulated, that is total myth that I’m not surprised a corporate tool like Oliver would promote that though.

    1. KayMarie says:

      Really, then why do they typically find for any given specific vitamin, herb, etc. a fair percentage of product that does not have the amount on the label, and occasionally doesn’t have any of what you thought you were buying in them. Or the occasional one that has a prescription medication in it to make sure it has a specific effect.

      Or are independent testing labs not to trusted?

      Do you really trust businessmen to always do what is best for quality assurance rather than best for their bottom line?

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Really? Supplements are well-regulated? Aren’t the regulations purely voluntary? Isn’t the industry essentially self-regulated to adhere to GMP, with no external validation the companies actually follow them? And of course, what about KayMarie’s point that most supplements don’t even have inside the bottle what they claim to have on the label?

      Not to mention the complete lack of efficacy testing – I mean really, who is the tool here? John Oliver for pointing out how shoddily the supplements industry is, or you for being so willing to mouth industry talking points like a good little drone?

      Don’t you think it’s reasonable to ask for proof that an herb actually does what it’s supposed to do, rather than simply giving them a free pass?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>