PCRM vs. Noah Wyle: Will the Real Physician Please Stand Up?

In a bit of humorous hypocrisy, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is upset about a new “Got Milk” ad featuring Noah Wyle — the actor who plays Dr. John Carter on TV’s “ER.” The ad shows Wyle with a milk mustache and the tag line, “Noah Wyle, M.D. (Milk Drinker)” and suggests readers should drink milk under “doctor’s orders.”

The ad prompted PCRM to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that the ad is misleading. “Like many of the ads in the milk-mustache ad campaign,” PCRM president Neal D. Barnard said in a press release, “the Wyle ad violates federal law by disseminating deceptive information. It implies that milk-drinking an stop osteoporosis among men, a claim not proven in medical studies. At the same time, it promotes regular, full-fat milk without warning that the product contributes to heart disease and cancer. The Wyle ad is particularly egregious as it misleads people into thinking a real doctor is prescribing milk.”

Okay, maybe Barnard and his PCRM folks don’t realize that just because Noah Wyle plays a doctor on “ER” doesn’t mean he really is a doctor, I think most Americans are able to make that distinction. On the other hand it’s a bit amusing for Barnard to complain that the ad passes Wyle off as a doctor, because despite PCRM’s name, it actually consists of very few physicians — in fact the last time I checked only about 10 percent of PCRM’s members were in fact physicians. In addition the leading physician’s group in the United States, the American Medical Association, has in the past censured PCRM for spreading unfounded health claims (the claims that milk contributes to cancer and heart disease, for example, are very misleading).

This seems a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.


Physicians lodge complaint over misleading ad starring “ER” actor Noah Wyle. Press release, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, October 24, 2000.

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