For years, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, established himself as a popular figure by presenting his medical talk show, The Dr. Oz Show. At the center of his campaign pitch to Congress, the platform he built was often used to advertise questionable products, some of them explicitly rejected by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
In 2011, he presented to his audience the alleged weight-loss properties of HGC, short for “human chorionic gonadotropin” — a hormone produced by the placenta and found in the urine of pregnant women.
“Does it really work? Is it safe? Is it a miracle? Or is it hype?” Dr. Oz asked in a 2011 episode of his show.
It didn’t work, as the FDA stated later that same year. In fact, the agency warned seven companies that they were violating federal law by making unsupported claims of the product. In 2012, however, Dr. Oz resumed promoting the product.
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The “TV doctor” — who holds a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has trained surgery at Columbia University — often made caveats about reported benefits. He also invited experts to speak against the use of questionable drugs – but would ending up recommending it.
“I think it’s worth trying it,” Dr. Oz said after hearing a warning from an expert about HGC’s life-threatening risks and stating that there was no proof of the substance working in the past.
The Dr. Oz Show ran from 2009 to 2021, when Oz announced his run to the Senate. The syndicated show won the Daytime Emmy Awards multiple times in different categories, including for Outstanding Informative Talk Show.
In a statement to the Washington Post, a spokeswoman for the Oz campaign argued he called different guests to discuss al kinds of views.
“On his show, Dr. Oz welcomed open, honest conversations and opinions from all kinds of folks,” she said. “It’s idiotic and preposterous to imply that he shared the same beliefs and opinions as every guest on his show, or that having someone on his show constitutes a blanket endorsement of their beliefs.”
Dr. Oz’s background as a celebrity doctor is central in his pitch to Senate.
His Democrat opponent, Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor John Fetterman, has launched a campaign called “Real Doctors Agains Oz” to target his controversial statements as a TV presenter.
According to recent polls, Fetterman has a narrow advantage over Oz, but the GOP candidate is getting closer. A recent analysis by The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that the numbers are so close that it’s possible to say that any of them could win in November.
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