Lies, fraud, conflicts of interest, and bogus science: The real Dr. Oz effect

Feb 5, 2015

By Scott Gavura

I thought I’d written my final post on the Dr. Oz-fueled green coffee bean extract (GCBE) diet supplement fad. But now there’s another appalling chapter, one that documents just how much contempt The Dr. Oz Show seems to show for its audience, and how little Dr. Oz seems to care about providing advice based on good science. This week it was revealed that the “naturopath” that Dr. Oz originally featured in his GCBE segment, Lindsey Duncan, didn’t disclose a direct conflict of interest when he spoke. After inaccurately describing the supplement’s effectiveness, he directed consumers, using keywords, to web sites that he owned or operated. The infamous “Dr. Oz Effect” worked, with Duncan selling $50 million in GCBE supplements in the following months and years. This week it was announced that Duncan and his companies have been fined $9 million by the Federal Trade Commission. The documentation released by the FTC[PDF] gives remarkable insight into how a scam to make millions was launched, and how the Dr. Oz Show is a platform for the routine promotion of dubious “experts” and worthless supplements.

The story of GCBE is really the story of Dr. Mehmet Oz, and his eponymous daytime television show. If you’re trying to sell a supplement, yet you don’t have actual scientific evidence to back up your claims, The Dr. Oz Show is your ticket to recognition and sales. No other show on television can top The Dr. Oz Show for the sheer magnitude of bad health advice it consistently offers, all while giving everything a veneer of credibility. Yet, this is a symbiotic relationship. Oz needs products that excite his audience. After all, everything is a “miracle” to Oz (He’s found 16 so far). The story of green coffee bean extract actually began in April, 2012, in a revealing email from the show to Duncan [PDF]:

“We are working on a segment about the weight loss benefits of green coffee bean and I was hoping that Lindsey Duncan might be available to be our expert. Has he studied green coffee bean at all? Would he be able to talk about how it works?” At that time, Duncan had no familiarity with the purported weight-loss benefits of GCBE, nor did Defendants sell GCBE. Nevertheless, within a few hours, a senior member of the Defendants’ public relations team replied: “Awesome! Thanks for reaching out, Dr. Lindsey does have knowledge of the Green Coffee Bean. He loves it!” Later that day, Defendants contacted a manufacturer of GCBE and, on or about the same day, submitted a wholesale order for GCBE raw material.

Note that the topic had already been decided upon before hand-picking the “expert” to profile it. Duncan was known to the producers, having promoted another supplement on the show before. Why Duncan? While he called himself “Dr. Lindsey Duncan”, Duncan has a naturopathy degree from the Clayton College of Natural Health, a school that the State of Texas considers a “fraudulent or substandard degree”, as it’s on a list that Texas maintains called “Institutions Whose Degrees Are Illegal To Use in Texas“. Not only is Duncan’s naturopathic degree shoddy, Texas doesn’t recognize the degree of Naturopathic Doctor at all. Despite this, Duncan lives in Texas and presented himself as “Dr. Lindsay” in the media repeatedly. Aside from the FTC prosecution, Duncan has also been prosecuted by the State of Texas [PDF] for Violations of Texas Education Code and for False, Misleading and Deceptive acts:

In addition to the use of the honorific “Dr.,” Mr. Duncan presents the appearance of a health practitioner, which he has done in television show appearances, media interviews, speaking engagements, and video promotions, by donning lab coats and making references to clinical experience and practice. Mr. Duncan’s acts and practices mislead the public into believing that he is disseminating health advice or knowledge, but such advice or knowledge is based on educational background and training which he does not have and when his underlying motivation is to sell products in which he has a financial interest.

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11 comments on “Lies, fraud, conflicts of interest, and bogus science: The real Dr. Oz effect

  • 2
    Observer says:

    There is no doubt that there is more than a whiff of the charlatan about good old Dr. Oz. But in the same way a stopped broken clock is right twice a day, someone from the execrable Science Based Medicine Pharma shills has chimed in. Why does this website let such garbage contribute? It is a disgrace. Is there a Pharma lobbyist on staff? Much more interesting would be the innumerable accounts of ineffectual compounds, redundant compounds, or useless harmful compounds being foisted on the public by Pharma members. That is the real story of charlatanism couched in Science. YET, nothing of this sort is ever published here. That is the real story why there is not more credibility of science with the public.

    This is far from the first time the RDF has publish rubbish from these swine. For folks that find Penn deep and intellectually penetrating articles like this may resonate, but the website should lead with better content. RDF scavenging for garbage from the Science Based Medicine shills is reprehensible at best.

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  • Dr. Oz has so little whiff of the crook about him. He seems so concerned and friendly.

    The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.

    ~ Jean Giraudoux 1882 1944

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  • Reading about herbal medicine lately and reading that an overwhelming amount of these ” medicines ” are just filler. Advertised as Echinacea, for instance, this stuff is mostly any old filler you can think of and not Echinacea at all. So, instead of green coffee beans you might be getting Boston baked beans!

    Typical of these people I assume.

    Isn’t Dr Oz one of Oprah’s launches?

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  • Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra, Gregg Braden, Suze Orman, Gayle King, Rachael Ray,

    That quavery guy who reminds me of Harry Dean Stanton.

    Oprah has the money to evaluate claims before putting people on her show. She pretends not to notice they are frauds. My gut says she want to believe, so she does — typical Christian delusion.

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  • 11
    Clayton says:

    Funny, “Dr” Oz makes many statements on air to legally separate himself from the products he is pushing. Last time I saw that was on crossing over with John Edwards. He had a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen

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