Corrections or additions?
This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the January 23, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Website Review: WelChol.com
U.S. 1 Newspaper does not often do articles on
or products or people that win awards — we know from our own
that simply entering a contest is often the most important
So when a press release arrived from Newton Interactive of 2425
Road, heralding an award-winning website it had designed for an
drug, we expected the news to be no news. But our boss took an
interest in it. "What’s the matter," we asked,
"Not exactly," he replied. "My last blood test showed
But we knew that cholesterol has two components, the good one (HDL)
and the bad one (LDL), and that together they shouldn’t be over 200
or 230 at the most. "So which one was 156?" we asked.
"Neither," was the reply. "That was the total." Still
the boss insisted on having this website reviewed. So we asked a U.S.
1 correspondent, Bart Jackson, to take the cyber-tour of
www.WelChol.com Jackson filed this report:
consumers have a right to be skeptical. We are all indeed leery of
having our objective editorial streams of information tainted by the
hidden persuadings of marketers. We feel manipulated. On the other
hand, Debra Newton, founder of Newton Interactive, feels that
when specific products provide valuable information and possible
to serious problems, this is information worth having.
In September, 2000, Sankyo Pharmaceuticals and its commercial partner,
Gel Tex, released WelChol, a new cholesterol-lowering drug. It had,
the producers believed, a definite effectiveness edge over competitive
statin drugs, such as Zocor, because it does its work in the stomach
and intestines, and does not carry side effects to the liver. With
50 percent of Americans showing high HDL cholesterol levels and 28
percent of those eligible for medication, the challenge was to impart
this complex product information to a broad base of both consumers
and health care professionals.
Sankyo chose Newton Interactive to solve this problem. Founded in
1991, Newton has designed sites for Bayer, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb,
Pfizer, and a host of other pharmaceuticals. Originally from Ohio,
Newton has knowledge of both marketing and the pharmaceutical
She attended St. Mary’s College in San Francisco, "about a decade
behind my fellows," she says, and earned a bachelor’s in business
administration. Afterwards, she became marketing manager for Wallace
Labs, where she saw the possibilities in web marketing.
Her 50-person firm specializes in work for medical and pharmaceutical
Newton Interactive produced www.WelChol.com under Sankyo’s
It is a product website — an infomercial, if you will — but
it is also a valuable resource tool for the 100 million Americans
concerned about high cholesterol levels. Like other successful sites
promoting prescription drugs, WelChol capitalizes on people’s desire
to learn about the entire disease, not just the drug.
In a colorful, interesting site, WelChol does just that.
Any major search engine brings you to its home page, affording you
two options. The "Professional Site," reserved for medical
doctors and other health workers, requires a password, which the
will provide upon application. Clicking on the "Consumer Site"
takes you instantly to a wealth of sharply categorized, readable
No flashing ads, thank heaven.
The site reads like a newspaper. Centering around some rather benign
graphics, small topic headlines invite you into specific categories.
You may go straight to the Welchol product information, learn what
this drug — colesevelam HCI — actually does, or you may review
a broad and neatly packaged body of information about cholesterol,
heart disease, and prevention. The tone is straight forward, yet not
didactic. You are enticed into a virtual fireside for a virtual chat.
At the end of 2001, Newton Interactive received a Healthcare
Gold Award for presenting the best overall website in a pharmaceutical
category. The site scored high marks for content, interactivity and
medical care support. But probably what this computer Luddite
most was WelChol’s amazingly easy navigation. Every one of the
is broken down into swiftly accessed features. Each can be quickly
escaped, with a host of options, not just to go back, but to link
onto to any other part of the site. Almost no segment of the site
is more than two clicks away, as opposed to the frustrating
that snarl many websites.
Following down the major listings you are led smoothly into the
and its use, making you well informed and capable of judging WelChol
by the time you get there. Under the broad headline of Cholesterol
Control, one is offered a full definition of HDL, LDL, their benefits,
proper levels, problems, and risk factors. Thus armed, you can click
down to the logical next steps: What is WelChol? How does WelChol
Work? and Is it Right for Me?
Among these, the reader is given the closest thing to a real ad. A
comparative difference between the typical statin cholesterol-lowering
medication is explained. Unlike the statins, which enter the blood
stream and thus may entail certain side effects, WelChol (colesevelam
HCI) stays in the intestinal tract, binding itself to HDL-laden bile,
and passes both self and bile through the system. The benefits are
deemed obvious and no space is spent on laborious testimonies from
high ranking doctors. Here are the facts, you can choose for yourself,
is the attitude.
Those not interested in the product may skip on to the concisely
"Managing Your Cholesterol" segment, which discusses exercise
and nutrition needs, actual recommended levels, sample menus, foods,
and even comparative gender risks. (One in three women versus one
in two men will suffer heart disease.)
Simple charts discuss and elaborate on various food groups. Even a
moderately health conscious individual might learn something. Given
the recent headlines about the deleterious effects of milk, some might
assume that dairy products should just be avoided in the fight against
cholesterol. But this website reports that three servings a day are
necessary, and that for those over 50 four servings a day are ideal.
The trick, of course, is that the servings should be low fat and low
cholesterol versions of what most Americans consume.
A few snippets of information begged questions that
were never answered. The website notes that people should limit
to foods with two grams or less of saturated fats. Then it notes that
olives and avocados are counted as mono-unsaturated fats. So are these
foods good, bad, or somewhere in between?
On the whole, however, the writing is unambiguous and easy to read.
Most items are held to a single page of about 250 words each.
pieces are broken into easy spacings, with options to "learn
While the gloom-and-doom business of cholesterol does not lend itself
to a fun Web page, Newton Interactive’s authors keep the reader
Such sidebars as "Apple Tips" recommend shoppers seek out
cheeses with three grams of fat and never more than five. It suggests
that, when ordering a pizza, you restrain yourself to a tomato pie.
(Cheeseless pizza may seem like the transformation of Bordeaux into
water, but ours is a cautious age.)
Interaction is also encouraged. A voting poll allows you to help with
a survey of, for example, how many times weekly you eat processed
meats. Three different daily menus are presented, to help a
dieter envision the range of food possibilities. The "Questions
to Ask Your Doctor" list flashes on your screen and takes only
a button to print out. Clever.
It was a little distressing to find that clicking on "Product
Information" leads to the necessary downloading of Adobe Acrobat
Reader (something which my computer refused to do.) However, I’m sure
I did not miss anything. Much of the information is deliberately
on this site, to make sure that essentials are encountered no matter
what pattern of browsing the individual searcher uses.
Compared with the American Heart Association’s website,
WelChol provides less total information, but more easily accessible
links. The AHA site provides an excellent glossary, many comparative
details of drugs, foods, and blood levels, but you are frequently
sent to another site to dig them out. On both sites, the Internet’s
specter of unedited unreliability is no problem. The information is
accurate because the FDA oversees all pharmaceutical advertising,
and the WelChol site is held to the same strict guidelines as drug
ads in any other media.
There may never come a time when the hard fist of the advertiser is
accepted into the fine glove of editorial content. And perhaps we
are right to keep our suspicions. But by whatever category you care
to label it, Newton Interactive’s WelChol site imparts some vital
and honest information, and it is refreshing to find a little of that.
— Bart Jackson
So why then Richard K. Rein’s sudden interest in
subjects? The answer lies in that three-day stretch the other week
when he was suddenly absent from the office. An early morning trip
to the medical center for a test that was part of his annual physical
turned into a three-day stay, with an angioplasty and a stent inserted
to clear up a 90 percent blockage of the left anterior descending
artery — the "widow-maker."
So, while a 156 cholesterol total may be "good" for most
it wasn’t good enough for Rein. In addition, and a postscript that
ought to be added to any discussion of cholesterol and your health,
cholesterol is merely one factor contributing to heart disease. Others
are smoking (not Rein), being overweight (not too bad there, either),
lack of exercise (hmmm), and stressful lifestyle (17 years of long
hours, incessant deadlines, and few vacations!)
But that’s another story. We’ll give the boss a deadline and word
limit and see if he can deliver.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.