Drug Truths

A site devoted to teaching about drug discovery and development.

Drug Truths Vs. Dr. Oz

with 6 comments

It all started innocently enough. A few weeks ago, I received a call from a producer of the “Dr. Oz “ show. She asked if I’d be willing to appear on the show to talk about issues that I addressed in “Drug Truths” – the safety of new drugs, the accusation that the pharmaceutical industry invents diseases, that people are over medicated, etc. I was told that Dr. John Abramson, author of “Overdosed America” would also appear.  I had a vague familiarity with the show and understood it to be one which tried to educate the public on medical issues. Given that this offered the potential to get some of the points of “Drug Truths” out to a wide audience, I accepted the offer to appear on the show.

About 40 hours later, I walked out onto the stage of the “Dr. Oz” show and was stunned to see the backdrop – “The 4 Secrets That Drug Companies Don’t Want You To Know About”! This was not exactly the balanced discussion that I was (naively!) expecting. The show opened with the recent announcements by the FDA of 13 potential serious safety events  recently identified with the anti-obesity drug, Alli. Yes, this drug has all sorts of side-effects (“anal leakage” for one!) and it is not very effective. But it has been in 40 MILLION patients. Doctors are aware of the risk-benefits of Alli, and must feel that their patients seriously need to lose weight to justify prescribing it. Instructive to me was the fact that the show’s staff put two Alli users in the front row of the audience and let them express their shock at this so-called hidden issue. How hidden could this have been given the broad publicity that this FDA pronouncement received?

The next 30 minutes continued along these lines. Some data was presented as absolute truths (“Statins are unnecessarily prescribed to women”) and I had to rebut them. This was an eye opening experience. There WERE areas that Dr. Abramson and I agreed: people need to watch their diet and exercise more; all drugs have side-effects; people shouldn’t take medicines unless all other efforts to treat the disease or condition have failed. But the painting of pharmaceutical companies as villains was both wrong and sad. These are the companies that produce important life-saving medicines.

You can judge for yourself. This episode is being broadcast on May 12.


Written by johnlamattina

May 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

6 Responses

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  1. As a pharmacist I find TV programs such as the Dr. Oz show a traversity of justice. Reading this blog, was very upsetting to me as a healthcare professional. Heart Disease is the number 1 killer of woman( for those who are health literate read the studies) and woman are far undertreated for their symptoms vs. men. People who take Alli know what they are infor if they continue to indulge in large amount of fat and continue to take Alli. For those people who ignore this warning or refuse to read the insert than that is their problem. The warnings are their. The Dr. Oz show is nothing short of an insult to the medical profession and insult to health literate people. This show needs to go away, or be taken over by knowledgeable health care professionals.


    May 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    • I agree with you 100%. The general public wants something for nothing. That is not reality. Everyone should be aware of the downside of their disease and understand that pharmaceuticals, for the most part,
      treat the symptoms. Healthy living requires effort. Sadly, it’s easier to blame someone or something else when the easy way out doesn’t result in the desired outcome.


      September 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm

  2. Dr. M, I’m just a wee bit shocked to have you admit: “I had a vague familiarity with the show”. The first rule of media training is to know your enemy. Before saying YES to any speaking invitation, do some homework. Google. Watch the show. Check out Twitter. Find out what real scientists are saying about Dr.Oz. You should not have been even remotely surprised, as a former Big Pharma exec, by what awaited you during this circus, or been so flattered by an opportunity to flog your book that you assume a reception that is not real.

    Carolyn Thomas

    January 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

    • Carolyn,
      You are not the first to comment on my naivety! But one of the reasons I wrote “Drug Truths” was to counteract the misperceptions about Pharma R&D. Given this opportunity, I felt I needed to go on the show. It didn’t do much for booksales, however! Thanks for the comment.
      – John


      January 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm

  3. Not a day passes when I don’t feel gratitude to Big Pharma.

    Dave Trowbridge

    January 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm

  4. […] John LaMattina actually did get the Oz experience, as recounted here. And he certainly knows what drug discovery is like, but it doesn’t seem to have had much […]

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