How Some Web Sites Sell Your Information to Drug Companies
June 06, 2009
RealAge, a Web site that promises to help shave years off your age, has become one of the most popular tests on the Internet. More than 27 million people have taken the site’s test, which asks 150 or so questions about lifestyle and family history to assign a “biological age,” how young or old your habits make you.
Then, RealAge makes recommendations on how to get “younger,” like taking multivitamins, eating breakfast and flossing your teeth.
But while RealAge purports to promote better living through non-medical solutions, it makes its money by selling better living through drugs. RealAge acts as a clearinghouse for drug companies, including Pfizer, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline.
The companies pay RealAge to compile test results of RealAge members and send them marketing messages by e-mail. The drug companies can even use RealAge answers to find people who show symptoms of a disease, and begin sending them messages about it even before the people have received a diagnosis from their doctors.
While few people would fill out a detailed questionnaire about their health and hand it over to a drug company sales department, that is essentially what RealAge is doing.