The celebrity surgeon has a financial stake in both the pharmaceutical and technology industries, creating a conflict of interest as he makes campaign promises of imposing more regulations and oversight.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, he’s “taken on Big Pharma,” “gone to battle with Big Tech,” and has the “scars to prove it.”
Yet the only “scars” from the celebrity surgeon’s so-called battles with Big Pharma and Big Tech companies are on his financial records.
Oz, Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for US Senate, has deep ties to both industries as either an investor, promoter, or consultant. While he touts more regulations and government oversight for both industries, his financial ties create serious doubts about his ability and willingness to follow through with those campaign trail promises if elected.
Let’s look at Oz’s ties to Big Pharma and Big Tech:
Before Oz decided to run for office, he achieved notoriety as a celebrity surgeon through his daily television talk show. His medical background enabled Oz to position himself as a pitch man, a role which found him endorsing and ultimately profiting from a wide variety of drugs and supplements. He routinely endorsed products he proclaimed as weight loss “miracles” even though most had little to no actual science behind those claims.
The full extent of Oz’s financial relationship with several health supplement companies was revealed in personal financial disclosure forms he was required to file as a Republican candidate for US Senate.
One of those companies is PanTheryx. Oz boosted products for the nutrition and biotechnology company that produces bovine colostrum-based solutions for human and animal health without revealing his personal financial relationship with the company. According to the Daily Beast, Oz disclosed that, from 2017 to December 2021—when he launched his campaign for Senate—he was a member of the company’s board. As of February, Oz was still a consultant for the company, according to his disclosure form, and is set to be awarded with over 700,000 shares of restricted stock in the company in return for three years of work.
PanTheryx is not the only company that generated undisclosed income for Oz while he plugged its products. According to his personal financial forms, he also worked extensively for Usana Health Sciences, a Utah-based multi-level marketing company that bills itself as the “cellular nutrition company.”
According to Oz’s disclosure form, Usana had two separate compensation arrangements with Oz Media LLC, a shell corporation associated with his business ventures.
Usana was also a sponsor of Oz’s television show for much of its 12-year run, according to Politico. He regularly featured the company’s nutritional supplements, skincare, and wellness products on his show, calling the company a “trusted partner and sponsor.”
These entanglements could prove complicated if Oz is elected and in a position to regulate the supplement industries to which he is financially linked.
His success at getting people to buy products of dubious origin earned him a well deserved public dragging back in 2014, courtesy of the US Senate, the body he is now trying to join.
Oz has claimed in the past that he has never personally profited from hawking products. Under oath at the US Senate committee hearing, Oz testified that he “never” endorses “one specific brand” and that “doctors shouldn’t endorse.”
The American Medical Association’s code of ethics discourages physicians from selling or being paid to endorse any health products beyond medication. If they choose to do so, the AMA says physicians have an ethical obligation to disclose “the nature of their financial interest in the sale of the product(s),” among other things.
According to the New York Times, Oz was an investor in Sharecare, a website that offered users the chance to ask questions about health and wellness — and allowed marketers from the healthcare industry the chance to answer them.
One of the features on Sharecare was the RealAge Test, which quizzed tens of millions of users on their health traits, then released the test results to paying customers in the pharmaceutical industry.
Oz has targeted the technology industry in his campaign for US Senate, railing against the harvesting of data from unsuspecting users and invasions of privacy by greedy firms.