GSK’s Alli Yet to Achieve ‘Blockbuster Status’ in Weight-Loss Market


Alli, the over-the-counter weight-loss drug launched in June 2007 by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was predicted to become an overnight success, with GSK pumping $150 million into marketing the drug and forecasting that annual sales would reach upwards of $1.5 billion, according to the Associated Press. But in the year following the pharmaceutical giant’s much-heralded debut of Alli, analysts are less than impressed with the drug’s sales, which have dropped off precipitously as word of the product’s unpleasant side effects have reached consumers. “I would characterize its sales, given the amount of money they have spent on marketing, as pretty underwhelming,” Steve Brozac, president of WBB Securities LLC, told NBJ last month. “Blockbuster status has clearly not been met.”

The product has, nonetheless, seemingly cut into sales of several other weight-loss offerings, particularly dietary supplements aimed at helping people shed excess pounds, with Alli now constituting 38% of weight-loss pill sales, according to Information Resources Inc. IRI reports that in July sales of Relacore pills were down 46%, Metabolife pill sales were down 30% and Trim Spa sales were down 42%. NutriSystem Inc., which makes pre-packaged diet meals and offers other services to members, reported earnings were down by a third in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, in April of this year, GSK joined forces with the American Dietetic Association, the Obesity Society and Shaping America’s Health, to petition the Food and Drug Administration to “treat weight loss claims as disease claims, because such statements purport to prevent or treat an abnormal or unhealthy condition that is a significant risk factor for disease.” If the petition were to pass, it would send ripples of ramifications throughout the dietary supplement industry—particularly for those companies that market products with weight-loss claims.

NBJ provides an in-depth look at the weight-loss product category and the potential impact of Alli and GSK’s petition on the weight-loss industry in our Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss issue, which publishes later this month. To order your copy of the issue or to subscribe to NBJ, go to www.nutritionbusinessjournal.com.

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