Monday, June 8, 2009

Crazy Talkin' with Oprah

I was pleasantly surprised to read this week's Newsweek article entitled "Crazy Talk: Oprah, Wacky Cures and You". The article discusses how Oprah, wielding considerable influence with her talk show, often features health, beauty and medical topics; unfortunately she doesn't always feature credible people to discuss these topics (for example, the actress Suzanne Somers, who apparently takes 60 supplements daily including 'bioidentical hormones" and does some pretty crazy stuff ). The gist of the article as Newsweek suggests, is that "some experts offer useful information. Others gush nonsense. Oprah can't seem to tell the difference." And for the many daily viewers of Oprah, this can be hazardous to their health.

I'm no medical genius, but I have a little more background than the average person. I love the arts, but my training was in the sciences. I have a really low tolerance for 'experts' on TV who babble stuff that is totally nonsensical from a scientific standpoint. I truly believe our country will be left in the dust if we don't start doing more than paying lip service to the need for more math and science training. I wish that shows like Oprah (or the science and health segments of cable news) would really spend a little more time with the actual doctors, researchers and scientists who study these subjects. But of course the problem is those people aren't the pretty people. They don't do sound bites. They would need time to explain the background information to viewers. And that's boooo--riiing -- we'd rather listen to the pop culture folks who entice us with suggestions we can cure our psoriasis by thinking positively. Sure, a good attitude helps and a good overall state of health helps, but what people really need is to be educated about their illness with solid scientific information.

And I love how these people call themselves "Dr." Whatever. Dr. Phil is NOT a doctor.
Dr. Drew is NOT a doctor. Which is not to say you can still be an actual doctor and not be a little loopy (sorry Dr. Grumpy, I don't mean you.) Check out this tidbit from the website of one of Oprah's frequent guests, Christiane Northrup, M.D. , as mentioned in Newsweek:

"In many women thyroid dysfunction develops because of an energy blockage in the throat region, the result of a lifetime of "swallowing" words one is aching to say. In the name of preserving harmony, or because these women have learned to live as relatively helpless members of their families or social groups, they have learned to stifle their self-expression."

WTF ??????? How do you think your professor would have graded that answer on your endocrinology unit? Energy blockage?

No, I'm sorry. That is NOT what causes thyroid dysfunction.

But Oprah's got a big platform, and if she's got no one there to challenge that then we've got a long way to go. I was glad to see a news magazine shine a light on this subject.


Anonymous said...

This depression is going to get a lot worse for most of us. Millions will go cold and hungry. It didn't have to be this way. Greed ruins everything. Its true. Ask any professor of economics.

"As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption; mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth -- not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced -- to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery. Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped."

Marriner Eccles, FDR's Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank - 1959

In other words, the first Great Depression was caused by greed. The rich couldn't settle for reasonable pay. They had to have more and more and more. That caused a shift in buying power from the majority to the rich. When the majority lost their buying power, they lost their ability to support the economy. Einstein said basically the same thing in 1949.

Its even worse now. Ordinary people havn't only lost their relative buying power. They have also lost their savings, home values, pensions, and benefits. Meanwhile, the rich have become super incredibly rich. The richest 500 Americans are worth about 2 trillion dollars. More than the bottom 40% of American housholds combined. The richest 1 percent are worth about 18 trillion dollars. More than the bottom 98% of American households combined. Thats just insane. I don't care how much work for humanity the rich claim to do. Its nothing but a cover for their own greed. We don't need anymore rich people to create jobs or make donations for charity. We need them to get reasonable about how much money and assets they keep for themselves.

Don't believe their excuse about paying more income taxes. They don't pay enough. For every tax the rich pay, they get an obscene profit, bailout, contract, or kickback from our government to cover it. We had a progressive tax system that worked for over 40 years after the first Great Depression. It prevented too much wealth from being concentrated. In 1976, the middle 80% owned about 2/3 of America's total wealth. Reagan lowered taxes for the rich. Bush lowered them again. Now, the richest 5% own about 2/3 of America's total wealth. The lower 95% own about 1/3. America's wealth has been transfered from poor to rich again. Now, we have another depression.

Don't believe it when the rich claim to be getting poorer. Property values have gone down for everyone. Thats because of the concentration of wealth and income. When the economy slows down, property values tank. So when rich people complain about lower net worth, its a trick. They still have the same buying power on average.

Too much wealth has already been taken away from the majority and concentrated into the private vaults of rich people. The same ones on TV telling us how much they want to help the world. Its a big lie. Just another way to promote their own names. Rich people don't want to help the world. They want to own it.

Now, the economy is ruined. Obama can't fix it because the rich won't let him. There will be no bailout for the people because the rich won't let it happen. They always want more. The same thing has been happening in other economies around the world. The world's rich have been getting richer. Now, we have a global recession. Its going to get a lot worse. It didn't have to be this way. Greed ruins everything.

Please copy and spread the word.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% but Dr Drew is a dr.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

Oops, you're right --- I was thinking of the other guy ( "Dr" Wayne Dyer)

pharmd student said...

Although I agree with your article, I was going to mention that Dr. Drew is in fact a doctor.

On a similar note, how do you guys feel about pharmacists calling themselves doctors?

Anonymous said...

Not only does Oprah give a forum to people like Suzanne Sommers and Jenny McCarthy, she has sold a lot of Boudreau's Buttocks paste, Airborne, and Acai berry juice. None of this stuff has any scientific evidence backing the claims made on her show.

Health Advocate said...

Medical comments should always come from experts and specially in shows like Oprah as there are too many blind followers to this and huge fan following.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

People find it easier to blow money on hucksters selling miracle cures. Scientific, sound, evidence just gets in the way of unrealistic expectations.

How many overwieght people ignore the proven concept of eat less exercise more? Almost all. So much easier to buy some miracle cure, possibly dangerous (ephedra and hydroxycut to name 2) so that they don't have to be an active participant in their own health.

Anonymous said...

I started out with the ideas of someday making a career in visual arts. A major reason I 'got' into pharmacy was to learn the 'stuff' to help with 'translation' for family members. One of the most valuable classes to tie many years of school together in the PharmD program, was Drug Information. It's rather incredible to realize how smoke and mirrors trumps solid research, even of those that appear to be 'experts', and so those who've no training in medicine, despite their best instinctual intentions, can provide unknowing deceit,much as revealed by Oprah's promotion of authors in her Book Club that turn out to be liars albeit good storytellers.

Now, why is it that pharmacists, or those that are experts, are not featured on consumer health shows? Perhaps, it might be considered the epitome of vested interest...that patients are afraid of being hoodwinked in the highest form of trust--by a cabal of conspiratorial pharmacists bent on making the most money out of questionable drug benefits? I guess that's why, in many state laws there is a distinction between practicing medicine and practicing pharmacy, and physicians have limits placed on what can be sold in their office, and the business of sampling.

Then, there's the other side of the coin, where patients might seem not to believe what the pharmacist says, because the pharmacist is too involved in checking drugs in bottles, so that the tech provides answers.

There is also the somewhat related matter of arguing patients. Yes, some patients come to me and ask the best thing to use for constipation, then argue about what I have to say (no, I did not do in-depth rotation on constipation!!). It may be the 'style' nowadays, to argue with accessible experts, or an individual pharmacist's
'style' in attempting to convey the rather simplified version of Constipation 101, or maybe patients are so much more informed these days, but there is the niggling doubt that if patients don't trust that we know these things, they may not believe we know about the bigger picture either.

Time for NBC to hire a resident pharmacist expert!! Anyone up to it?