Is Dr. Oz Selling Snake Oil or Survival?

Sermo Poll of over 2,000 Doctors Shows 81 Percent Think Dr. Oz Should Resign or Have His License Revoked

81 percent of US physicians polled on Sermo, the top social network for doctors, want Dr. Oz to resign from his faculty position at Columbia University or lose his medical license. Sermo polled over 2,000 doctors who index closely to the demographics of American physicians in general, as benchmarked by the American Medical Association. The margin of error when projecting this un-weighted poll to active Sermo members is ±2% (see “A note on the data” for details).

The poll sparked a heated debate within Sermo, a virtual doctors’ lounge that provides a safe online space for doctors to discuss all aspects of medicine candidly and anonymously. Doctors condemned his practice of shilling various supplements that are supported by dubious medical evidence at best. Out of the 2,010 doctors polled by Sermo:

  • 57 percent called for Dr. Oz to resign from his position at Columbia
  • 21 percent think Dr. Oz should both resign from his position at Columbia and have his license revoked
  • 19 percent say they respect Dr. Oz as a physician
  • 3 percent think Dr. Oz should simply have his medical license revoked

First do no harm

At the core of the discussion within Sermo was the question of whether or not Dr. Oz uses his show for the benefit of the nation’s health. Sermo physicians had plenty of choice phrases for Dr. Oz, calling him everything from a “quack” to “a new kind of Turkish Delight: Half fluff, half substance.” Said one Sermo general practitioner:

“We are taught to first do no harm. Why on earth would Dr Oz sell himself for “Dr Oz” products that are not scientifically proven to be of any benefit? Yes, he has freedom of speech, however that freedom of speech is not in line with the good practice of medicine.”

Dr Oz hasn’t always been the face of televised medicine. Many physicians discussed Dr Oz’s earlier and more respectable days as a talented cardiothoracic surgeon. One fellow cardiothoracic surgeon told of his personal experience with Dr Oz:

“I have watched Dr Oz operate and he is a good surgeon. He truly cares about patients, and I have performed well-done medical research with him. As a heart and lung surgeon, I respect him. However, when I watch his show, I cringe when he talks about a pill containing some combination of herbs, roots, and chemicals that solves any problem…or when he talks about the female orgasm!

Does he know what those pills do, what the long-term side effects are? No good studies have been done on half of those pills, and the other half have questionable or no benefit. He is using his good and well-deserved surgical reputation to mute any criticism. It is truly sad. Shame on Columbia for supporting this bad behavior.”

In the land of Oz, there’s money to be made in medicine

While Dr. Oz is far from the first person to capitalize on his credentials for financial gain, one internal medicine specialist asked Dr. Oz if he crossed a line by discussing topics with which he has little clinical experience:

“When I see Dr Oz discuss nutrition-related topics, I am saddened by his turn to the dark side. When he was a guest on Oprah, he discussed topics relevant to his training in cardiovascular surgery and he did a good job. Now, he’s an “expert” on everything…especially selling products and making money.”

Practicing doctors want respect too

As the debate continued, doctors pointed out that while Dr Oz may have the ear of the public, he also is free from the constant, daily battles that our everyday doctors face:

“The rest of us have to fight for a living doing prior authorizations and constantly explaining our decision-making for our patients. What [Dr. Oz] says is medical gospel and not questioned….like a TV Vatican Pope.”

There’s an inherent conflict between being a respected physician and a celebrity pandering to the masses for television ratings. As a Sermo pain medicine specialist said:

“What conflicts of interest does he acknowledge on his show? This is key. And it needs to be said in plain language.”

Who are Dr Oz’s critics? Were they paid to speak out against him?

Doctors also discussed the suspicious origin of the letter calling for Dr. Oz’s resignation from Columbia. Said one pediatrician:

“The letter…is actually quite chilling because it seems like a clumsy attempt to get us squawking amongst ourselves. Who are the sell-outs who signed that letter? What was their agenda since they don’t even work at Columbia? I found their connections to Big Tobacco and Monsanto very unsavory.”

Dr. Oz supports regulations requiring foods that contain GMOs to have a package label so that consumers can make an informed opinion. Physicians have suggested that he may have angered Monsanto and others big food companies who support a bill currently pending in Congress that will prevent any requirement to label GMO foods. While US physicians disagree with many of Dr Oz’s opinions and practices, some physicians agreed with Dr Oz’s stance on GMOs. Said one Sermo physician:

Don’t we have a right to know what we are eating? Didn’t Hippocrates say ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food?’”

About Sermo

Sermo is the United States’ top ranked social network for fully verified, licensed physicians. Sermo is the place for doctors to talk about real world medicine. Founded in 2005, Sermo’s mission is to unite physicians and provide them with a safe, private, and trusted platform for free and open discussions. Sermo is a virtual doctors’ ‘lounge’ where doctors candidly share their true feelings about their profession and lives. With over 305,000 verified US physicians from 93 specialties, representing 40 percent of the American physician community and 38,000 UK physicians representing 16 percent of the UK physician community, Sermo harnesses the collective wisdom of doctors, enabling medical crowdsourcing, knowledge sharing and thus the advancement of medicine.

What are Sermo surveys and sentiment polls? A note on the data

Sermo is the world’s largest healthcare professional polling and survey company with 1.6 million healthcare professional members in both a social network and a digital research network, spanning 80 countries. Sermo conducts 700,000 surveys a year.

In addition to formal surveys, Sermo also conducts regular sentiment polls on the social network. We take the pulse of physicians on topics that range from healthcare topics and politics to doctors’ daily challenges. Polls can receive up to 3,000 votes and members are not incentivized to participate in Sermo polls. Our polls are one of the most popular areas of our site and are intended to reflect the unfiltered voice and sentiment of physicians.

Sermo members must go through a three-stage, highly secure, and accurate verification process. While the data have not been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of US physicians, Sermo physicians index closely to the demographics of American physicians in general. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-select for participation rather than being targeted from a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated when projecting to the universe of US Physicians. However, the margin of error when projecting the most recent poll (of 2,010 doctors) to active Sermo members is ±2%. It is calculated at the standard 95% confidence level. Therefore we can be 95% confident that the sample result reflects the active Sermo member base within the margin of error. This calculator is based on a 50% result in a poll, which is where the margin of error is at its maximum. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error.

Opinion polls within the social network are open and offered free of charge to members of the media.

Media Contacts:

Osnat Benshoshan, SVP, Marketing & Strategy, Sermo; +1.805.479.8343

Victoria Khamsombath, SHIFT Communications; +1.617.779.1859

Kristin Polman, Shine Communications