Company Sells Health Info to Pharma Companies
Would you share your personal health information on the Internet, including intimate information like how sexually active you are or how heavy your menstrual cycles are? Well, more than 27 million people have, according to a New York Times
article on the online testing company RealAge
RealAge, promoted by Dr. Mehmet Oz of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" sells advertising to drug companies using the information that members input into a 150-question survey that aims to determine a consumer's age based on the person's habits and lifestyle, according to The New York Times. "While few people would fill out a detailed questionnaire about their health and hand it over to a drug company looking for suggestions for new medications, that is essentially what RealAge is doing," The Times article says.
The article quotes one pharma marketer as saying that he buys lists of women between 37 and 49 who cited heavy menstrual bleeding during the survey on RealAge. Targeted marketing messages are then sent to those women, suggesting the product.
Upping the creepiness factor, RealAge focuses on what Andy Mikulak, vice president of marketing at RealAge, called "the undiagnosed at-risk patient." So your doctor might not know that you have all the symptoms and risk factors of hypertension, but RealAge does, because of the survey.
It makes sense. On the Internet, you don't have a real live doctor standing there chiding you about smoking or overeating. Survey participants really do want to see how they stack up to find out their "real age," so they're likely to spill details they might not feel comfortable sharing with, say, their gynecologists.
According to a WebMD survey cited in Newsweek, 13 percent of those polled admitted lying to their doctors, while 32 percent 'fessed up to "stretching the truth" in their physicians' offices. According to the article, the lies may stem from a variety of factors, including "fear of judgment, the desire to appear to be a good patient, a lack of understanding about why certain questions may be asked and even insurance worries." On the Web, those fears may subside.