As some of you know, Dr. Joseph Mercola, multi-millionaire osteopath entrepreneur of mercola.com, began his practice in the Chicago area. Sometime in the early 1990s, he and I crossed paths at alternative medical meetings and I remember just one exchange.
JM: “The future is on the internet.”
Me: “What’s that?”
JM: “Don’t you know what a website is?”
As they say, the rest is history. Dr. Mercola would go on to create by far the largest internet site devoted to nutritional supplement sales, its content translated into dozens of languages.
From where I sit, his objectives have been twofold: to trash just about everything conventional medicine offers and to urge his readers to use more mercola.com products and supplements.
It’s not integrative medicine at all. Not much of anything about, say, chiropractic or acupuncture. Dr. Mercola follows the time-tested Madison Avenue rule, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”
Most of his products are OK, though nothing you can’t get from amazon, The Vitamin Shoppe, or WholeHealth Chicago. I suspect most mercola.com customers are loyal because they believe in Dr. Mercola and boy, does he know it.
Some products are truly bonkers, like the tanning bed he claimed would “slash your risk of cancer.” The Federal Trade Commission didn’t buy it and made him refund $2.59 million to purchasers.
Some years ago, Dr. Mercola turned anti-vaccine and, as this 2019 Washington Post piece explains, started donating vast amounts of money to organizations that supported this position. From the article:
But over the past decade a single donor has contributed more than $2.9 million to the National Vaccine Information Center, accounting for about 40 percent of the organization’s funding, according to the most recent available tax records. That donor, osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola, has amassed a fortune selling natural health products, court records show, including vitamin supplements, some of which he claims are alternatives to vaccines.
In recent years, the center has been at the forefront of a movement that has led some parents to forgo or delay immunizing their children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles. Health officials say falling vaccination rates contributed to the infectious virus sickening more than 1,200 people in the United States this year, the largest number in more than 25 years. Measles outbreaks are surging worldwide, including in Samoa — where nearly 80 people have died since mid-October, the great majority of them young children and infants.
Mercola’s still at it with Covid-19
And now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, he’s capitalizing on his approach in a big way. Here’s a fascinating history of Dr Mercola from his Arlington Heights roots to his rise to power as the #1 spreader of vaccine disinformation worldwide.
Of course he’s not alone. The nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has been tracking vaccine disinformation and published this report, entitled “The Disinformation Dozen.”
Not surprisingly, Dr. Mercola heads the list at #1. His partner/girlfriend Erin Elizabeth, with her own website, lands at #7. If you scroll down to page 27 of the CCDH site you’ll see she is curiously anti-Semitic, posting a conspiracy theory about the Rothschild family on her Instagram account (since removed, apparently).
The only other person on the Disinformation Dozen list I’m more-than-vaguely familiar with is Christiane Northrup, MD, the once-respected ob-gyn author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. You used to see her on Oprah a lot. She was one of the original founders of the American Holistic Medical Association and I took her course on bioidentical hormone therapy, gosh, 30 years ago. Oh, well. People change.
Which brings us to today
As the Delta variant spirals out of control among the unvaccinated– largely in the deep south, rural west, and Midwest–hospitals and medical staffs are under terrific strain.
The past two weeks’ 51,209 new cases translate to an increase of 172% in the US alone. In that time, 267 people died of Covid-19 who might, just might, be alive had they walked into their local Walgreens or CVS and rolled up their sleeve a few weeks ago. On the plus side, in response to rising infection rates, vaccine rates in some states are rising.
I do wonder if Dr Mercola is worried about this trend and its effect on his bottom line.
Every day in the office I’m seeing patients, most of whom are vaccinated. I say “Good choice, let’s take off our masks and breathe.” We enjoy that first cool puff of oxygen.
Those who aren’t vaccinated I simply ask, “Any reason why not?” About half the time, their fears have a rational basis, which (I think) I’m able to offer reassurance for and then encourage them to go down the street and get vaccinated.
The other half usually start by quoting something wildly anti-scientific that they saw on a website. If I spent time trying to convince them that I can’t scientifically endorse hydrogen peroxide inhalation (Mercola) or Northup’s claims of DNA alteration, then I wouldn’t have time to deal with what brought them into the office in the first place.
In other words, I end the visit with a “Gosh, I do hope you change your mind about getting vaccinated.”
In the meantime, the next time you order supplements from mercola.com, just remember your dollars are supporting him and the rest of the Disinformation Dozen.
David Edelberg, MD
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this Health Tip are opinions of Dr David Edelberg and do not represent the overall opinions of any entity with which he has been, is now, or will be affiliated.