Consumer Reports’ Best Medical Info Website List

Consumer Reports has just reviewed and rated 20 online healthcare information sites. The ratings are only available to subscribers, but here are their six top-rated sites with my thoughts on each:

  • This site is run by Dupont’s Nemours Foundation. Its orientation is towards the health of children and teenagers, with different sections for each group and a separate section for parents. Comprehensive but very timid (abstinence is the most recommended means of birth control). The kids section has a ton of material for school projects, and I’d guess this site is used more for that than for personal health questions.
  • I found this site shallow, conservative (they don’t question the use of ECT shock therapy for depression), self-serving (aggressively hawking the clinic’s books, which have information they don’t provide online) and generally not very useful.
  • This site from the publishers of Webster’s medical dictionary has way too many ads and Big Pharma ‘sponsors’  for my liking. Many of the ad links are to WebMD sites (see below). Warnings about adverse drug reactions and contraindications are not easy to find. The search engine is feeble (poor sorting, and if you misspell or put in an extra hyphen you’re out of luck) and the site as a whole is very text-heavy. If you’re looking for the morning-after pill you need to know it’s under “emergency hormonal contraception”. I like the fact that most of the articles are attributed to the doctor who wrote it, with a link to their credentials.
  • Registration (free) is needed for most content on this site. The site claims to be “from WebMD” (see below), and most of the content meant for non-medical practitioners is verbatim from that site. Same caveat about search engine as for Medicinenet. The site is designed mainly for use by medical practitioners, some of the content is very technical, and some requires payment to view more than an abstract. Lots of ‘industry news’ (press releases from Big Pharma) on the site, though they’re clearly identified, and the site seems slightly less timid than others about discouraging overprescription. It also has a comprehensive drug interaction and contraindication database and a novel online Flash-based interaction checker (you put in all your drugs, and the checker identifies all possible interactions). There is more content here than in the other sites on this list, if you’re prepared to wade through it and aren’t intimidated by technical terminology.
  • The only government site on the list, this is the best of the lot, and free of the ads and ‘sponsorships’ that plague (and make somewhat untrustworthy) some of the other sites on this list. The writing is non-technical, thorough, objective, concise and plain-spoken. Information abounds on interactions, contraindications, warnings, alternative therapy (this site both mentioned St. John’s Wort as an herbal treatment for depression, and provided unbiased evidence suggesting it is ineffective), self-diagnosis and self-care options, and just plain good cautious advice. The site, as CR points out, is a bit hard to navigate (it bounces you around among the dozen or so different NIH institutes’ and National Library Medline sites, which are all good but each different in layout). But this site and Medscape are the only two I deemed worthy of bookmarking, and I’d generally start here. Big Caution: These government sites appear to have been infiltrated by anti-reproductive rights ideologues in the Bush administration. Look elsewhere for information on abortion, birth control, or any sexual health issues, starting with Planned Parenthood.
  • Again, like Medicinenet, this site is frighteningly full of Big Pharma ads and links to sites of Big Pharma ‘sponsors’ with biased and self-serving disinformation (BTW, did you know that the US and NZ are the only industrialized nations on Earth that allow advertisements of prescription drugs directly to consumers — who can’t buy them, and hence waste doctors’ time “asking if they’re right for them”?). You have to dig for drug interactions, warnings and contraindications, though they are there. There is a fair bit of detailed content here, though all of it and more can be accessed through the Medscape site (see above).

What’s missing for me is more objective, unbiased information on alternative therapies. There are a ton of really scary sites offering all kinds of dubious (and sometimes expensive) miracle cures, and offering to supply drugs and herbs at ‘discount’ prices. What’s sad is that people will be desperate enough, and so put off by the apparent pro-drug bias and excessive cautiousness of legitimate sites (some of the legalese on the sites above essentially tells you not to trust or believe anything you read online unless it is directly and personally verified by your doctor), that they’ll send off money to online con artists. Two sites I trust for alternative therapy information (and when appropriate, debunking) are The People’s Pharmacy (now part of the Dr Dean Edell site) and the Linus Pauling Institute‘s nutritional supplements site.

This entry was posted in Our Culture / Ourselves. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Consumer Reports’ Best Medical Info Website List

  1. Em says:

    Hi, your review of the med sites was very valuable. Thanks. You have probably seen this, but I really like They do sell vitamins, but if you ignore that part they have tons of great information on many different conditions. They list the AMA mainstream treatments, any alternative ones they are aware of, and also treatments that are standard in other parts of the world. They also do lots of research.

  2. Carroll says:

    Very useful review, Dave. Thanks for taking the time to create and post this information!

  3. Herbinator says:

    It’s true. There is a shocking lack of multidisciplinary information in Alternative health. Wish we had big bucks, too.But is a good place to start.

  4. Scott Miller says:

    I recommend the #1 natural health site on the web: http://www.Mercola.comThis site is updated several times a day with the latest findings.

  5. Pearl says:

    This is handy. It can be hard to sort through the options when all you want is a quick tidbit on medicine. Thanks.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for the comments and links, everyone. It’s a jungle out there, isn’t it?

  7. alto says:

    i like curezone, as do 10’s of thousands of others.

Comments are closed.