WASHINGTON, Mo. – Dr. Oz faced some tough questions on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Sen. Claire McCaskill was among those grilling the celebrity doctor about his endorsement of some weight loss products.
The main complaint from lawmakers was the language Dr. Oz uses in support of certain products. Some of the specific words that came up were "miracle" and "magic."
Sen. McCaskill also brought up an instance in January when Dr. Oz called the plant extract, forskolin, "lightning in a bottle." Those claims, say McCaskill, open the door for scammers to falsely advertise what the supplements can actually do.
Dr. Oz fired back, saying it's not his fault manufacturers sometimes illegally use his name to sell their product. And, he says, he whole-heartedly believes in the products he researches and features on his show. However, he did say he wants to do a better job of being part of the solution in fighting diet pill scams.
"I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true. So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show?" McCaskill said to Dr. Oz during the hearing.
Later, Dr. Oz addressed that question saying, "Your comments about the language that I used is well heard, and I appreciate it. I host a daytime television show where I feel a need to bring passion to people's lives about what they can do."
A Clayton pharmacist who specializes in holistic healing says she's seen the "Dr. Oz effect" take hold in her customers. Jennifer Rich says she gets an influx of calls any time Dr. Oz promotes a new product on his show. While Rich says there are advantages to taking supplements, she says Dr. Oz is exaggerating when he touts some of these products as "miracles in a bottle."
Rich's store, Jennifer's Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe, does sell products with green tea coffee extract, and other supplements Dr. Oz has endorsed. But she says customers won't notice a huge difference just by taking these pills. She says they can help, but the key to substantial weight loss is a healthy diet, and exercise.
What's dangerous about Dr. Oz's claims, she says, is that they make people believe a pill can make them thin, thus opening the door for manufacturers to make false claims about all-natural pills, or to add potentially harmful substances to the raw, natural ingredients.
"The key ingredients do have good effects, but with natural products it doesn't happen right away. And it's not one pill that is going to fix it, and you're not going to notice the difference in a snap," said Rich.
Experts say companies that do promise a quick fix are often scammers. They are the reason St. Louis area attorney Matthew Armstrong started focusing on diet pill scams.
"The psychology is that they're targeting women," said Armstrong.
And, Armstrong says they're targeting young, single women, who many times don't have the hundreds of dollars they can lose after signing up for the pills. So, he's encouraging people to hire him to try to get their money back from the manufacturers.
"If these pills worked, we'd all be losing weight," said Armstrong.