YONKERS, N.Y. Experts at HealthRatings.org, a joint project of Consumer Reports and the Health Improvement institute, ranked Walgreens.com as the leading online pharmacy retailer Wednesday, citing quality of health information and ease of use and giving it a “very good” rating.
“Consumers should think of online drugstores the same way they think of drugstores 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.”
All sites were rated “excellent” on their privacy policies, but raters gave the Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid sites a score of “poor,” however, on disclosure of advertising and sponsorship policies, and on policies for correcting wrong, misleading or outdated information.
“Because of their market presence, drug stores serve an important community role, not only in fulfilling prescriptions and selling health- related products, but also in serving as a distribution channel for health information,” stated Dr. Peter Goldschmidt, M.D., 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 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 ten different 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 drugstores or perform comparison-pricing tests.
The ratings do not test the scientific accuracy and validity of the health information found on the sites.