RealAge Quiz Offers Data to Big Pharma

Popular website uses health info to pitch drugs to users
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2009 6:41 AM CDT
Dr. Mehmet Oz, right, a frequent guest on Oprah, endorses the RealAge website, which sells users' medical information to drug companies.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
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(Newser) – More than 27 million people have gone online to take a quiz called RealAge, which promises to determine your "biological age" and then suggests recommendations on how to feel "younger." But most users are unaware that the site makes its money by selling test results to pharmaceutical companies, who then pitch their products to users, reports the New York Times. In essence, RealAge users are filling out detailed medical questionnaires and then handing them to drug companies for free.

RealAge, owned by Hearst Magazines, has achieved widespread popularity in part because of the endorsement of Mehmet Oz, a doctor who appears on Oprah. After filling out the questionnaire, users then receive emails based on the test results—and touting medications from Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and other sponsors. RealAge defends the practice, but one heath advocate said that the site can "hit them up and create anxiety even though the person does not have a diagnosis."