YONKERS, N.Y. HealthRatings.org, a joint project of Consumer Reports and the Health Improvement institute, ranked Walgreens.com as the leading online pharmacy retailer earlier this month, citing quality of health information and ease of use that garnered a “very good” rating.—Experts at
Walgreens.com, RiteAid.com and CVS.com were rated “excellent” on their privacy policies, but raters gave all three sites a score of “poor” on disclosure of advertising and sponsorship policies, and on policies for correcting wrong, misleading or outdated information.
“Consumers should think of online drug stores the same way they think of drug stores you walk into,” stated Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Reports WebWatch. “You shouldn’t be getting all your health information in the store, where product placement, advertising and other persuasions are at work. You might talk to the pharmacist, you’ve probably done some research and you’ve probably had a conversation with your doctor.”
“Because of their market presence, drug stores serve an important community role, not only in filling prescriptions and selling health-related products, but also in serving as a distribution channel for health information,” stated Peter Goldschmidt, president of the Health Improvement Institute.
Using a tool based on WebWatch’s guidelines for Web site credibility and HII criteria for health information, a panel of health and medical experts examined the three sites in-depth over a period of more than one month, then rated each using established Consumer Reports-style methods and the familiar trademarked symbols. The list was determined using Nielsen//NetRatings and WebWatch data.
This is the first time HealthRatings.org has looked at online pharmacies. Overall ratings scores were determined from 10 attributes, including identity, advertising and sponsorship disclosure, ease of use, privacy, contents, authorship, references, editorial policies and health information.
The raters did not shop at the online drug stores or perform comparison-pricing tests. The ratings do not measure the scientific accuracy and validity of the health information found on the sites.