You may have heard about the thrashing Dr. Mehmet Oz took from Congress last week for touting "magic" dietary supplements with little to no medical backing. Well, on last night's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver argued that Oz is simply a symptom of America's supplement problem, and offered his view on the real culprit.
"The problem is this Senate hearing is going to achieve nothing for a very chilling reason," Oliver said. "Dr. Oz is just a symptom of the problem. The disease is the fact that dietary supplements in the U.S. are shockingly unregulated."
According to Oliver, the two agencies responsible for regulating supplements – the FDA and the FTC – are essentially neutered by the supplement industry's political lobbying. When a bill was proposed to increase regulation 20 years ago, the industry pulled out PSAs featuring none other than Mel Gibson:
"Oh 1993. It was a different time, when you could plausibly say 'Hey! Be quiet everybody, let's all listen to what Mel Gibson has to say,'" Oliver quipped.
On top of Mel Gibson's infallible word, the supplement industry also relied on good old fashioned lobbying. As Oliver pointed out, the top two recipients of campaign funds from the industry were Senators Orrin Hatch and Tom Harkin. "In a crazy coincidence, they cosponsored a bill to deregulate [the industry]," Oliver said.
Hatch in particular blasted the FDA for its "regulatory zeal." Oliver's response: "He just criticized a regulatory agency for being too in to regulating things. That's like accusing your podiatrist for having a foot fetish."
Oliver summed it up: "None of this is likely to change because companies have access to the one genuinely, truly effective wonder drug. It's called lobbying. [...] With lobbying's somehow legal process, all those pesky regulations just melt away into nothingness, giving you that comfortable corporate feeling of shitting money almost uncontrollably."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.