Sunday, Nov 23, 2008
According to an article posted on the Consumer Reports WebWatch site, the “World Wide Web Health Awards” are administered by a company with major financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
“These days, a number of health sites display logos from the World Wide Web Health Awards as if they constitute a quality seal. In fact, on the WWW Health Awards home page, they market themselves as “providing a ‘seal of quality’ for electronic health information,’” writes WebWatch director Beau Brendler. “We wanted to know more about these awards, since they give out dozens [of awards] twice a year.”
Consumer Reports began with information on the awards’ Web site, which listed a related page, HealthPrograms.com. This site consisted mostly of broken links or blank pages “under construction.” It did contain, however, logos for the “Consumer Health Publishers Association” and the “Online Health Association.”
The Web sites of these two associations, like that of HealthPrograms.com, were also mostly under construction, but Consumer Reports was able to trace them to the company American Custom Publishing Corporation. A phone call to the company confirmed that American Custom Publishing does, in fact, administer the World Wide Health Awards.
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“What does American Custom Publishing do for a living?” Brendler writes. “Well, they print brochures for the pharmaceutical industry and others. Their client list includes Liberty Medical, Pfizer, CVS, General Electric, Humana, ‘and hundreds more!’”
According to Brendler, it costs only $52 to be considered for an award, and nearly anyone can sign up to be a volunteer judge. But the health awards’ Web site does not reveal what process or standards are used to decide upon winners.
“How valuable are awards handed out by a company that prints brochures for the pharmaceutical industry?” Brendler says. “Are consumers fooled by awards logos into thinking that … a Web site produced by Takeda Pharmaceuticals to sell its Rozerem sleep drug (a gold medal) … in the, yes, patient education information category, is an unbiased source of information?”
“Why give an award to a drug company as a recognition of excellence in patient education?” Brendler added. “Isn’t that like giving some sort of public service award to Sepracor for its pretty-blue-butterfly Lunesta commercials on TV?”
This article was posted: Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 5:47 am