Study says half of TV doctors' advice not based on evidence

A Canadian research team says that based on its analysis, the recommendations offered on popular medical-based television programs can only be supported by medical evidence roughly than half the time.

For the study at the University of Alberta, the team analyzed 40 episodes of “The Dr. Oz Show” and ‘The Doctors” beginning from early 2013. Within these episodes, the researchers paid close attention to the nature and content of strong recommendations. They also noted additional information such as cost, conflicts of interest and financial gain from the person giving the medical advice. Taking the 80 strongest recommendations, the team then used Google and medical databases, to check if these could be supported by major or minor medical evidence.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed that only 54 percent of both the 12 Dr. Oz recommendations per episode and 11 ‘Doctors’ recommendations per episode, could be supported medically.

Not only did the researchers find a fraction of medical support, but they also discovered that the recommendations sometimes contradicted medical evidence. Recommendations were supported by evidence 46 percent of the time on “The Dr. Oz Show”, but 14 percent of the time the show’s advice was contrary to the evidence, and no evidence was found 39 percent of the time.  For “The Doctors,” evidence supported recommendations 63 percent of the time, contradicted advice 14 percent of the time and could not be found 24 percent of the time.

Harm or risk associated with recommended products or treatments, was found to only be reported 10 percent of the time.

In response to the research, a spokesperson for  “The Doctors” stated that the program always advises its viewers to discuss treatment with their personal physician, and believes this research was intended to create “provocative headlines.” 

The researchers noted that their findings aren’t meant to suggest that the medical professionals on the shows are fraudulent. They say their intent was to encourage viewers to question what they hear, look for evidence, and encourage more research into how medical advice is communicated to the general public.

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Sourced from: Reuters, TV Medical Advice Not Always Backed By Evidence