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RealAge scheme exposed by NY Times

Thursday, December 03, 2009 by: E. Huff, staff writer
Tags: RealAge, scam, health news

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(NaturalNews) A popular online age quiz, RealAge, has gained notoriety among many Americans for its claims to pinpoint a person's true biological age and make corresponding recommendations for staying healthy and young. Research into the company reveals, however, that while the site itself promotes non-medical solutions to staying young, the company generates revenue by marketing drugs to its members via email.

The quiz is designed to assign a biological age to a person through a series of questions that assess lifestyle preferences, eating habits, and family history. Once compiled, the survey will offer advice on which vitamins to take, what to eat for meals, and how to improve youthfulness. Over 27 million people have taken the quiz and roughly nine million have signed up to become members.

Once a member, a person receives custom-tailored emails that use that person's quiz answers to make drug recommendations based on current symptoms and potential disease propensities. Drug companies pay RealAge to send marketing emails directly to members without any formal diagnosis from the members' doctors.

Luring in customers for Big Pharma

Attracted by promises of living longer and changing their lives for the better, people continue flocking to take the RealAge quiz despite the fact that its underlying purpose is to provide detailed, personal health details to drug companies looking for new customers. The crafty manner in which the quiz was constructed entices people to provide personal information many normally wouldn't.

The quiz is heavily marketed by the company's spokesman, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as by advertisements strewn across the internet. Once at the site, guests are required to submit an email address in order to take the test and are continually asked if they wish to receive a free membership to RealAge. Those who accept have their email addresses entered into the marketing database and may then receive commercial email marketing messages pushing pharmaceuticals.

Andy Mikulak, the vice president for marketing at RealAge, stated that the primary focus of this type of email marketing is to reach what he terms the "undiagnosed at-risk patient". In other words, those who aren't necessarily ill are manipulated into thinking that they might be in order to sell more drugs.

The ties between RealAge and the pharmaceutical companies that use it for marketing purposes is not openly disclosed, typifying the practice as both manipulative and dishonest. Drug companies have a long-standing reputation for deceptive marketing behavior and RealAge appears to be perfectly aligned with Big Pharma's marketing tactics.

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