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Can I trust WebMD? A hypochondriac’s nightmare and Big Pharma’s dream 

July 20, 2016



Dear Julia: Can I trust WebMD?

WebMD is the most popular source of health information in the US, and is likely to dominate your Google search results for almost any medical question you have. According to its editorial policy, WebMD promises to empower patients and health professionals with “objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information.”

But is WebMD actually trustworthy?

While there have been some investigations into WebMD’s potential conflicts of interest, there’s a remarkable dearth of independent information on this question. The site generates revenue primarily through advertising and sponsored content for pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies, as well as hospitals, health insurance providers, and lifestyle and wellness brands.

The only high-quality study I could find that related to the question of WebMD’s independence was published in JAMA in 2013. The researchers looked at which medical communication companies targeting doctors received the most money from 14 pharmaceutical and device companies.

They found WebMD, along with its sister siteMedscape, were the top recipients of industry dollars:


They’re not alone in that regard. Many health companies rely on industry dollars as part of their business model. But those links raise thorny ethical questions, said James Yeh, a physician-researcher based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who has studied the influence of industry funding on medical information.

Read Full Article – Source: The truth about WebMD, a hypochondriac’s nightmare and Big Pharma’s dream – Vox

Updated by Julia Belluz on April 5, 2016, 7:50 a.m. ET

Photo Credit – (table) JAMA Top medical communication company recipients of company grants.

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