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The FDA Gives GSK a New Way to Tout Alli

GlaxoSmithKline believes that the newly aggressive FDA may have handed it a marketing opportunity on its floundering weight loss drug, Alli. GSK began running an Alli ad in People magazine with the headline, "Lose weight the FDA approved way." The words "FDA approved" are picked out in red.

The FDA and the FTC have "woken up" under the Obama administration, bringing a string of recalls, settlements and enforcement actions against purveyors of bogus diet supplements, herbal pills and other functionless elixirs.

The FTC recently extracted a $500,000 settlement from Rite Aid for selling a bogus cold and flu remedy. That product was Rite Aid's store-brand version of Airborne. (FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, "This settlement is one 'cold remedy' that works"; he'll be here all week!)

Rite Aid should have known that making a version of Airborne was a bad idea in August 2008, when the FTC extracted $30 million from that company for falsely claiming that it can cure colds. For its part, the FDA has gone after Zicam maker Matrixx, various pill makers who have included undisclosed erectile dysfunction drugs inside "herbal" remedies for impotency (here and here and here), and HydroxyCut.

Bayer is likely to next see FTC attention as the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a letter with the agency alerting it to the fact that the company has been claiming its One A Day vitamin brands can prevent prostate cancer.

Alli needs all the help it can get. Its annual sales are just $131 million and its ad budget is $96 million. Image via AdPharm.