As 2016 rolls out, many resolutions spring to life and others already lay broken underfoot. Everyone wants to be healthy, fit and lean but that goal is difficult for most. And as we grow attuned to easy fixes in our culture, we search for quick health and fitness cures as well. We want magic pills to help us sleep and lose weight. We desire supplements that build muscle without the hassle of going to the gym. While most doctors and medical professionals do not support the safety of these products, celebrity doctors like Dr. Oz profit hugely from them. It certainly seems like we are living in an Oz world.
Frequently, I am amazed at the “natural” products and supplements my patients buy into. There is no evidence to support their effectiveness, and research is needed to prove their safety. Yet, when a celebrity supports such products, people buy it. And then doctors in the exam room fight tooth and nail to explain why these may not be the best or safest treatment for them. Sure, there are some alternative medications that do work. I am sure that over time we will discover more and find that some of them we are hesitant to support have some use. But, until then we are fighting against the Oz-world of healthcare: fast solutions with no proven benefit at high costs.
“As we grow attuned to easy fixes in our culture, we search for quick health and fitness cures as well.”
Companies that produce supplemental products need doctors to support them otherwise they will not see any profits. I delete 3 or 4 requests from my inbox nearly every day. I am a doctor, and the standard of medical care is to provide evidence-based medicine to my patients. If I fail to do that, I step on the slippery slope of experimenting with unproven therapies on my patients. Why would any doctor want to do that? Why would any patient accept that?
As I mentioned before, some of these products are useful and many others may prove to be so too. But, until we have studies with statistically significant numbers, we cannot prescribe these products, unless we want to step outside science and go with the hype. For those who believe in the benefits of supplements, push for more studies to be done. If you are right, the studies will prove it, and more doctors will support their use.
While I would probably earn much more money selling a magic weight loss pill or a mystical cream that vanishes wrinkles, I need to be a doctor first. Dr. Oz and others like him may have chosen a different path of stardom and profit; most doctors stand on scientific principles and the Hippocratic Oath. Patients look to us as medical experts and trust us to give them the best medical advice. We cannot make up our own science. Science is what it is, and we cannot change it or neglect it. It may not sell as well but, at the end of the day, it proves itself and I have done the best I could have for my patients.
We may be living in an Oz world, but time always reveals the truth. Science will reign in the end. Hopefully, those who bought useless products will be compensated.
Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.