Dr. Mehmet Oz, once beloved as “America’s doctor,” is back in the news this week with a new lawsuit. On his popular day time television program, The Dr. Oz Show, he recently touted an insomnia cure called the “Knapsack Heated Rice Footsie.” While it sounds more like a close relative of the Snuggie than a legitimate medical treatment, many of his loyal viewers were quick to try it. The “cure” involves heating up uncooked rice in a sock and slipping them on for twenty minutes before bed. Hot feet lower the body’s core temperature, which in turn lulls you to sleep.
A 76-year-old New Jersey man, Frank Dietl, found this out the hard way. According to a lawsuit he filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court, the “footsie” Dr. Oz recommended left him “sick, sore, lame and disabled.” Though Dr. Oz warned viewers not to fall asleep with the footsie on, the treatment apparently worked so well that Dietl quickly drifted off, and in turn, suffered third-degree burns to both of his feet.
Fortunately for Dr. Oz, the lawsuit might not have a leg to stand on. In consulting with our resident pharmacist Dr. Sarah G. Khan, she said, “I think the current lawsuit filed against Dr. Oz will not hold up in court. The patient fell asleep with the socks on and Dr. Oz gave instructions to only use it for 20 minutes. Also, the patient is diabetic and has neuropathy.”
That could be the saving grace for Oz, as neuropathy is a condition associated with a lack of sensation in the extremities, which leads to an inability to decipher between hot and cold. This condition, coupled with the extended amount of time Dietl wore the footsie, will most likely clear Oz’s name.
Though Dr. Oz is a respected cardiologist, his television show, charm, and association with Oprah do not make him an expert in all fields. “Treatments for insomnia may be a little out of his scope of practice,” said Dr. Khan, “and those treatments should be recommended by a neurologist.”
Dr. Khan also revealed that many of her colleagues are “beyond frustrated with Dr. Oz’s recommendations of herbal supplements.” The Dr. Oz Show targets an elderly demographic, and when people take the supplements he peddles, there’s a chance of harmful interaction with other prescription pills they’re on.
While Dr. Oz may not be in hot water so much as he’s in hot rice, you just can’t trust a snake oil salesman. In 2012 alone, Dr. Oz hawked six supplements as “miracles.”
“One of the most common problems we find are patients unwilling to take a pharmacist’s recommendation, but are willing to take their friend’s or Dr. Oz’s,” said Dr. Khan.
Always consult with a professional for a second opinion before you try a “miracle cure,” and remember, Dr. Oz is a television personality who’s in the business of making money, so take his advice with a grain of rice.
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