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February 24, 2020

Are CVS Customers Better Than Most at Taking Their Pills?

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Prescription adherence, as it is called, is a real problem. About half of prescriptions issued each year are either not filled or the medicine is not taken correctly. (See report.) So if someone has come up with a more effective method to ensure that patients take their drugs properly, that would be good news.

Along these lines, a curious new claim has recently adorned CVS circulars that asserts that “CVS customers are better than most at staying on their prescriptions*.”

CVS better than most

That asterisk goes to a small footnote on the front page of their advertisement.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“Based on 2019 study of national retain chain customer prescription adherence for diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia medications.”

Checking the CVS website for further details, the following is displayed:

CVS better reasons

So, out of curiosity, we asked the CVS PR folks for a copy of the study, who did it and paid for it, how competitors fared, and whether the study explicitly cited the three elements above as reasons for CVS customers’ superior adherence record. The company only responded with this statement:

CVS Pharmacy worked with an independent third-party firm to study data for the top dispensed prescriptions in the U.S. across different pharmacy competitors. That data was used to create a campaign educating our customers on the benefits of filling prescriptions at CVS Pharmacy.

All this seems to say is that CVS paid for the study. We are left guessing as to which competitors did better than CVS, and which did worse. But without seeing the actual study, we simply don’t know if the conclusions that CVS drew are substantiated by it.




• • •

February 3, 2020

Honest Tea Making Less Than Honest Low Sugar Claims

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says that Honest Tea, a bottled beverage manufactured by The Coca-Cola Company, is making an implied “low sugar” claim that is prohibited by federal law.

In particular, adorning the top of each bottle of Honest Tea is the claim “Just a Tad Sweet.” Most people would probably understand this to mean that this was a drink low in sugar, and therefore more healthy than a full-sugar drink.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Honest Tea

A close look at the back label with the nutrition facts disclosure reveals that this 16.9 ounce bottle contains 25 grams of sugar. As we’ve reported previously, most consumers have no idea how to convert metric measurements on product labels to more commonly understood ones. In this case, this “tad sweet” product has six teaspoons of sugar. No reasonable consumer would say that that amounts to just a “tad.” The product is loaded with sugar.

So CSPI has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration urging them to take immediate enforcement action against the company, and to consider coming out with rules defining when “low sugar” claims can be made. And a proposed class action lawsuit has already been filed in New York.

You can learn more about the issue of low sugar claims and Honest Tea here.




• • •

December 16, 2019

Advertising Masquerades as Program Content on TV Talk Shows – Part 4

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

While flipping the channels recently, MrConsumer came upon a Dr. Phil episode where they were talking about Medicare advantage plans. For the uninitiated, these are health insurance plans that substitute for original Medicare and pick up the balance of the costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover. Most plans throw in some extra benefits free like eye exams.

Please watch the four-minute segment below.



What most viewers may not have recognized is that this entire segment was really a commercial masquerading as a conventional Dr. Phil interview on his program. He introduces the guest as a licensed insurance agent and spokesperson for MedicareAdvantage.com . (Note that “Medicare advantage” is the generic term for a particular type of insurance policy.) Does that introduction put you on notice that you are in essence watching an infomercial or that the program was paid to have her as a guest?

Some additional disclosures pop up during the segment, but they relate to the average savings and limitations of these plans. In the final 15 seconds of the segment a hard-to-read fine print disclosure comes up on the screen.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dr. Phil disclaimer

It says “MedicareAdvantage.com is owned by sponsorship partner TZ Insurance Solutions, Inc. … Paid endorsement…. Dr. Phil does not recommend or endorse any particular plan…”

Again, has any of this put average viewers on notice while they were watching the interview that this really was a commercial? We think not, and a two-second “sponsored in part by MedicareAdvantage.com” slide in the closing credits comes too late in our view.

We asked both the Dr. Phil show and CBS’s Senior Vice President of Program Practices whether they believed the minimal disclosures the program made at the beginning of the segment were enough, and what was CBS going to do now to improve notice to viewers given that this is the second time we pointed out the issue. (See our original story calling out The Talk for airing a commercial segment masquerading as traditional program content.) The CBS executive did not respond, but a spokesperson for Dr. Phil said:

“The integration partner and spokesperson were appropriately identified both at the time the segment ran and in the end credits.”

We disagree. As a viewer, you are entitled to know upfront if you watching a commercial or a bona fide interview segment where the participants did not pay to appear on the program. We hope both the FCC and the FTC start clamping down on television programs that pass off advertising segments as regular interview segments.




• • •

October 28, 2019

CVS’ Surprisingly Generous Coupon Policy

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

The last place one might expect a retailer to be overly generous to customers is CVS Pharmacy. But their coupon acceptance policy has some unexpected benefits for shoppers.

Let’s say CVS has certain vitamins on sale “buy one, get one free” and you have two $1 manufacturer’s coupons. Most stores would say you can only use one of those coupons for the item you are paying for because the other one is free. Not CVS!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Can I use multiple coupons on sale items? Yes, for certain coupons and certain sale items.

Examples:
• Suave shampoo is on sale for $2.00 Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO) and the customer purchases two shampoos; the
customer may use two coupons for $1.00 each.

CVS actually allows you to apply one of these two coupons to the free item.

Another unexpected bit of generosity occurs in this example:

Suave shampoo is on sale for $2.00 BOGO and customer has a mfr. coupon for Suave BOGO. Customer will receive both
items for free but will need to pay any applicable tax.

In this case, you don’t even have to buy the first bottle of shampoo. Amazing.

While we’re on the subject of CVS coupons, recently MrConsumer used a bit of his own brand of coupon magic at CVS where he bought over $25 worth of merchandise and only paid… drumroll… $1.68.

CVS products - receipt

Each of the three items was over $8 regular price, but they were all on sale. The pills were buy one, get one free and I had both a single $5 off manufacturer’s coupon and a $2 off CVS coupon. The trail mix was on sale for $4.99 but I had a $3 CVS snack coupon, and $2 toward anything store coupon. The net result was a 93-percent savings (excluding sales tax).




• • •

September 9, 2019

NBC TODAY Show Caught Up in Diet Pill Scam

Filed under: Health,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:39 am

NBC’s TODAY Show has innocently gotten caught up in a diet pill scam that Consumer World discovered.

I was recently on a local television station’s website (CBS 19) and saw what might be an interesting story about Kelly Clarkson losing 105 pounds.

CBS 19 ad

Upon clicking the box, you are taken to what looks like the TODAY Show website where the story becomes even more intriguing because of the headline — “Kelly Clarkson Forced to Lose 105 Pounds by NBC Producers.” According to the story, producers of “The Voice” were requiring Clarkson to lose at least 50 pounds and if she did not she would lose her role as head coach on that program per the terms of her contract. Her lawyer was unable to negotiate a compromise.


View full size

Ellen DeGeneres apparently caught wind of the controversy and recommended a particular product to Clarkson to help her lose weight.

The TODAY Show writer of this story then describes her own test of that product. And with that, MrConsumer realized he had been duped. This whole story was really an advertisement for Keto 101 weight loss pills. But why had the TODAY Show become involved with something shady like this?

*MOUSE PRINT:

The answer is, they didn’t. The promoters of these diet pills apparently hijacked the format of the TODAY Show website and created their own phony story using the TODAY logo. The URL (Internet address) of the web page was diet.healthy-service.com rather than today.com. In fact, they even changed all the TODAY menu links to their own ordering page.

Pill URL

As with many of these product promotions, there was a long list of phony consumer testimonials near the end followed by a free trial offer of a 30-day supply of these pills. Just pay $4.95 for shipping, they claimed. But the ordering page had its own hidden gotchas.

order form

*MOUSE PRINT:

terms expanded

Only when you expand the offer terms section do you learn you will be charged $89.99 for pills if you don’t cancel during the trial period because you have been enrolled in a membership plan with automatic shipment of refills every month.

As if that is not bad enough, if one looks at the complete terms and conditions section, you learn that although they are sending you 30 days worth of pills, the free trial is only 14 days. And the free trial period begins on the day you place your order and not when you receive it. So it is possible that your free trial period could expire before you even get the product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

terms highlighted

We notified the folks at the TODAY Show about their website being appropriated by these pill pushers. They responded that “the problem is they are very hard to track down… [I’ll] send them to our legal department, so they could get some type of cease and desist action going.”

It should be noted that the above fake TODAY Show web page was just one of four variants that we found, all using similar tactics and slightly different pill names. What’s particularly bold about these fake sites is that they are using the real names and look and feel of actual TV news sites as noted in our main story, rather than made-up names like “Health News Today” as they used to.

Reader beware!

If you have been a victim of one of these look-alike major media sites, please tell us in detail what happened in the comments.




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