A new option for the millions of Americans trying to lose weight. It's an over-the-counter version of an established diet drug and it is set to go on the market - complete with an aggressive marketing campaign. However, if you are curious about it, make sure you read the fine print under the side-effects.
It's called Alli, an over-the-countrer cousin of the prescription diet drug Xenical, that's been on the market since 1999. The difference is Alli is half the dose.
"We think this is going to be one of the very top over-the-counter medicine brands in the United States," Vice President of Marketing for Glaxosmithkline Steven Burton said.
And with that conviction, Glaxosmithkline is investing $150 million worth of marketing muscle behind it.
But consider the return, marketing experts project between 5 to 6 million Americans could buy Alli, and that would mean more than $3 billion in revenue in the United States alone.
All that, assuming people like it and use it properly, in conjunction with exercise and a low fat diet. It works by blocking up to 25% of the body's absorption of fat in the intestine. But that mal-absorbed fat has to go somewhere, and that can mean loose stool or gas with an oily discharge. Eat a high fat diet, and you can expect more of those side effects. That is one reason Alli should be taken as part of a low fat diet.
That is why Glaxosmithkline brought in advocates like Dr. Caroline Apovian, a paid consultant who testified before the Food and Drug Administration on Alli's behalf. With the company's help, she wrote a book called "The Alli Diet Plan," which is due out this week.
"I feel that I have an obligation to help a company who is truly trying to help the people of the United States lose some weight and keep it off," Apovian said.
But not everyone is swayed.
"If people try this and they think it's going to result in a lot of weight loss that will be long-lasting, I think they're in for a rude awakening," said Dr. Glenn Gaesser. "Long term, this will not result in any more of a difference than just a regular diet and exercise program."