Dr. Mehmet Oz testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senator Claire McCaskill on Tuesday, June 17, in a hearing on the false claims made in weight-loss advertising campaigns.

Senator McCaskill instigated the hearing and grilled Dr. Oz on his show, The Dr. Oz Show, on which he often mentions weight-loss pills or supplements.

McCaskill’s hearing follows recent enforcement actions against companies engaged in deceptive advertising of weight-loss products. Last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it is suing the Florida-based company, Pure Green Coffee, alleging that it capitalized on the green coffee bean diet fad by using bogus weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market its dietary supplement. The FTC claimed that weeks after green coffee was promoted on the Dr. Oz Show, Pure Green Coffee began selling their Pure Green Coffee extract, charging $50 for a one-month supply," reads a press release from Senator McCaskill.

Sen. McCaskill Grills Dr. Oz

Dr. Oz’s onscreen endorsement translates into what is commonly called the ‘Oz Effect,' which boosts sales and contributes to the problematic growth of the weight-loss industry.

“When you feature a product on your show it creates what has become known as the ‘Oz Effect,’ dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight, using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products. While I understand that your message is also focused on basics like healthy eating and exercise, I am concerned that you are melding medical advice, news and entertainment in a way that harms consumers,” McCaskill stated at the hearing.

Oz has mentioned countless weight-loss products on his daytime talk show, such as Garcinia Cambogia. As a result, his image has been used to sell products mentioned on the show, despite the fact that Oz does not officially endorse any such products.

McCaskill questioned Dr. Oz on the use of his image and words to sell dangerous dietary supplements that promise extreme weight loss. Though Oz denied ever selling weight-loss drugs, he admitted that his hyperbolic statements, such as “And now I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat,” has made it easy for brands to use his image in their campaigns.

“Your comments about the language that I use is well heard, and I appreciate it. I host a daytime television show where I feel the need to bring passion to people’s lives about what they can do,” Dr. Oz said, adding that he sees his show as a vehicle to deliver hope to the audience.

“No one’s telling you not to use passion, but passion in connection with the word ‘miracle pill’ and ‘weight loss’ is a recipe for disaster in this environment in terms of the people who are looking for an easy fix and getting sometimes delusional about whether or not an easy fix is going to be there with him,” McCaskill responded.

Dr. Oz Defends Weight-Loss Pills

The Dr. Oz Show website does have a dedicated page where viewers can report products and ads using Dr. Oz’s image, but its effectiveness is unknown. Senator McCaskill encouraged Oz to reconsider how he uses the influence he has over his viewers, saying, “I know you know how much power you have… You’re being made an example of today because of the power you have in this space.

When McCaskill accused Oz of deliberately lying to his viewers, Oz admitted that many drugs he has mentioned on his show would not have the scientific proof to be approved by the FDA. However, he maintained that every product he recommends on his show is a product he would recommend to a family member.

“I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about on the show. I passionately study them. I recognize they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact but nevertheless I would give my audience the advice I give my family all the time and I have given my family these products,” Oz insisted.

Oz also expressed willingness to work with McCaskill in attempting to put an end to the false advertisements supplements depend on, saying in a prepared statement, “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 today in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight loss scams.”

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