Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


NLM Title Abbreviation

J Med Internet Res

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of medical Internet research

PubMed ID


DOI of Published Version


Start Page



BACKGROUND: Access to information is critical to a patient's valid exercise of autonomy. One increasingly important source of medical information is the Internet. Individuals often turn to drug company ("pharma") websites to look for drug information.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine whether there is information on pharma websites that is embargoed: Is there information that is hidden from the patient unless she attests to being a health care provider? We discuss the implications of our findings for health care ethics.

METHODS: We reviewed a convenience sample of 40 pharma websites for "professionals-only" areas and determined whether access to those areas was restricted, requiring attestation that the user is a health care professional in the United States.

RESULTS: Of the 40 websites reviewed, 38 had information that was labeled for health care professionals-only. Of these, 24 required the user to certify their status as a health care provider before they were able to access this "hidden" information.

CONCLUSIONS: Many pharma websites include information in a "professionals-only" section. Of these, the majority require attestation that the user is a health care professional before they can access the information. This leaves patients with two bad choices: (1) not accessing the information or (2) lying about being a health care professional. Both of these outcomes are unacceptable. In the first instance, the patient's access to information is limited, potentially impairing their health and their ability to make reasonable and well-informed decisions. In the second instance, they may be induced to lie in a medical setting. "Teaching" patients to lie may have adverse consequences for the provider-patient relationship.


OAfund, ethics, personal autonomy, readability, trust

Journal Article Version

Version of Record

Published Article/Book Citation

J Med Internet Res 2017;19(5):e178.


Copyright © 2017 Mark Alan Graber, Eliyakim Hershkop, Rachel Ilana Graber. Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.