GSK's Alli Diet Drug Has Problems With Your "Fat Friend"

Last Updated Aug 11, 2008 3:04 PM EDT

The official blog of GlaxoSmithKline's Alli diet drug franchise has suddenly adopted a decidedly different voice.

Alliconnect used to be a series of posts about health, nutrition, and some upfront warnings about Alli's side effects (eat too much fatty food and you can lose bowel control). It came on like a combination of your best friend and your family doctor -- all common sense and encouragement.

For instance, consider this typical post from last spring:

Nutrition, it's all about what you eat ... March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to learn more about making smart eating decisions ... For help understanding how to personalize the food pyramid, visit MyPyramid.gov and use the Menu Planner tool.
Since June, however, Alliconnect has sounded more like Gossip Girl than a BFF. The latest post, from Aug. 6, has a picture of a thin blonde in a little black dress and states:
At 27 years-old, Laura Lee felt like the fat friend at a party and started alli the next day."
(That's the capitals-free way GSK brands the drug, by the way.) The item before that, from July, begins:
Shed the pounds, share the clothes: "For women, clothing matters. How she is dressed when she walks into an interview affects her self-esteem, confidence and her power as a woman..."
The item goes on to urge women who have lost weight to donate the clothes that no longer fit them to Dress For Success, a charity that helps poor women look good in job interviews. A good cause, but the theme here seems to be looking good rather than becoming healthy.

The post before that one, on July 1, shows another skinny blonde in another cocktail dress:

Connie D. looked like she'd always been comfortable in her size four skin as she strutted the runway in her custom black dress, made for her by Project Runway's Laura Bennett...
The changes have occurred in coincidence with two major events for Alli. First, new management took over. In June, Alli was consolidated with GSK's anti-smoking brands under vp for behavioral sciences Karen Scollick. The previous regime was under former VP Steve Burton, who no longer works on Alli. Burton was most famous for the straight-talking way in which he tackled Alli's "treatment effects" -- by describing his own personal experience.Second, Alli's second quarter sales report did not live up to expectations. GSK recorded only £18 million (about $35 million) in sales for Alli, for a brand which has spent about $150 million on advertising. Here's GSK's explanation:
We continue to see strong underlying consumer demand for alli, our new weight loss treatment. However, reported sales this quarter were impacted by lower demand from retailers for stock following a year-end promotion and an adverse comparison to Q2 2007, which benefited from stocking ahead of the product's launch in June.
Doubtless that overstocking problem will be fixed by GSK's new tactic: The tried-and-true method of making women feel bad about themselves.