To, Er, Your Health. Yeah! Your Health!

April 7th, 2009 by Ilya Marritz

Truly, Hippocrates would be appalled. Physicians a) peddling phony diagnoses based on a bunk concept, and b) selling the personal information of unwitting “patients” to unscrupulous marketers.

Two of the country’s best-known doctors, Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen, have been doing this with their RealAge test. The New York Times has the story:

Pharmaceutical 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.

So: like millions of other people who are insecure about getting older you waste valuable minutes of your life completing the 150-question form…You learn your “RealAge” (as opposed to your actual age? I’m 31!) and receive advice on staying healthy. Vitamins. Jogging. Whatever…And, oh yeah, if your personal medical information gets the attention of companies hawking heart medicine or acne treatments, you get targeted ads, tellling you your health could be at risk, but there’s a drug for it…

RealAge offers the Times this explanation of its business model.

“Our primary product is an e-mail newsletter series focused on the undiagnosed at-risk patient, so we know the risk factors if someone is prehypertensive, or for osteoarthritis,” said Andy Mikulak, the vice president for marketing at RealAge. “At the end of the day, if you want to reach males over 60 that are high blood pressure sufferers in northwest Buffalo with under $50,000 household income that also have a high risk of diabetes, you could,” he said.

One irony here is that many people probably take the RealAge test because of its holistic, wheatgrass-and-yoga image.

In the past couple weeks I’ve taken Facebook’s Which Crazy Bitch Are You? and Which President Are You? tests. Makes me wonder who might be interested in the fact that I would click on the option to “drive around all night with your boyfriend in the middle of nowhere, then wander around the desert all high on shrooms.” (I got Sylvia Plath.)

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