...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Have you seen the ads for Alli? They tout it as the only FDA-approved, over-the-counter diet pill -- that is, you don't need a prescription.

With the rollout of this new product, we see a whole new way of talking about side effects -- those pesky problems that may crop up in the course of using a medicine. In the Alli materials, "side effects," which carries a rather negative connotation, is replaced after one use of the words by "treatment effects." There, isn't that much nicer?

The FDA, which may stand for Friendly Drug Approvals, is well accustomed to approving drugs that cause varying levels of trouble for patients. In this case, since Alli works by inhibiting your body's ability to digest fat, the problem can be, oh, just...frequent, oily, difficult to control bowel movements. You can go read the other unpleasant details for yourself here.

For the promised upside -- 50% more weight lost than a low fat diet alone -- and, excuse the expression, the downside, of Alli, you can click right over to drugstore.com and pick up a month's supply (90 caps) for only $59.99.

In fairness, for the desperate and untherapied overweight person, this drug, with its sensible diet advice, is at least a miracle pill that apparently works, as certified by our government, and so may be worth the discomfort.

I can't help wondering how many people will be inspired to eat more healthily by Alli's marketing. And then there's the gnawing suspicion that this is the FDA as retooled and defanged by the Bush years. What have they protected us from lately? Caveat dieter.

Links: Glaxo, the manufacturer; FDA's Alli label information; drugstore.com's price page


mary said...

I like the part about "alli-oops".

From Saint Louis' Riverfront Times:


By Malcolm Gay
Published: July 18, 2007

So, we're a nation of fatties. Not only that, we're a nation of fatties getting fatter. Take our fair state of Missouri: The Centers for Disease Control report that in the 1990s, a mere 10 to 14 percent of Missourians were obese. By 2005, though, the Show-Me State had shown itself the buffet, sidling up with a 25 to 29 percent obesity rate.

Is there any doubt, then, that there'd be a mad rush on alli, the first diet drug to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration?

Not really, and since its release last month, anecdotal evidence indicates we're popping alli with the same fervor that Joey Chestnut mainlines Nathan's Famous hot dogs.

Witness Behind the Counter, a blog penned by an anonymous Wal-Mart employee who reports that dieters are shoplifting alli from his Florida store.

"Really, considering the average Wal-Mart customer — you'd think they wouldn't be worried about losing weight — they'd be more worried about finding a wheelchair cart," a surprised Behind the Counter writes. "Every day we find about [four] of them ripped open and the pills stolen. If they really are stealing them to lose weight, methinks these people aren't reading the part about 'leakage.'"

What was that? Leakage?

Ah, yes. alli helps people lose weight by attaching itself to enzymes in the stomach, rendering them incapable of breaking down fat. Undigested and indigestible, the fat cannot be converted into energy, or — and here lies the drug's genius — stored as fat. With all other egresses blocked, the undigested fat hangs around in the gut awhile, before it's prodded down the intestine, where it becomes...


"The excess fat is not harmful," alli's marketers state, settling on "treatment effect" as a euphemism for this messy effluent. "In fact, you may recognize it in the toilet as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza."

The diet drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, warns dieters against other side effects that include: "gas with oily spotting," "loose stools" and "more frequent stools that may be hard to control."

But really, aren't these small prices to pay for a 28-inch waist?

At any rate, GlaxoSmithKline has offered some helpful tips to help with the dreaded "alli-oops." Among them:

1) "You may not usually get gassy, but it's a possibility when you take alli. The bathroom is really the best place to go when that happens."

2) "While no one likes experiencing treatment effects, they might help you think twice about eating questionable fat content."

3) "[I]t's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work."

What do these tips tell us? Well, that in order to metamorphose into the slender butterfly of your dreams, you must 1) risk an unctuous diarrheal plague, 2) isolate yourself in the loo or 3) change your diet.

On second thought, oily spots be damned. Go ahead and shit those fat pants! After all, dark clothes have a slimming effect.

So it is that clad in my darkest denim, I tentatively place a single blue alli capsule on my tongue. It has a slight chalkiness, but certainly none of the bitterness I generally associate with pills. As it begins to melt at the ends, I'm having a hard time placing its flavor. The pill is not sweet.

It doesn't taste bad, but it sure doesn't taste like pizza.


Sorry, Mary, I couldn't just click and publish your comment -- you sent the entire Malcolm Gay column from the St. Louis Riverfront Times. I'd rather we just link to it, O.K.? Anyway, Mary especially liked Mr. Gay's "alli-oops" reference. Go see the article.