Sunday, May 01, 2011

Alli Is Not Your Ally

Although it seems to be promised, you can't have everything in a pill. And the long-term effects of what drugs can do to one's body, prescribed or otherwise, often aren't revealed for years.

GlaxoSmithKline is offering their latest miracle, Alli, the FDA-approved weight loss pill.

Just watch this ad and then we'll chat...

In their latest television advert, Cheryl Hartvigsen says, "As a pharmacist, I knew it would be safe because it's approved by the FDA."

Now there's a confidence-booster, because the FDA has never approved anything they later had to recall that may cause us harm. Except for all of those meds that ended up causing us harm that have been recalled. They even have a dedicated site of recent recalls.

Don't get me wrong. I want the FDA to review pharmaceuticals (holy crap, I spelled it right without spell-check!) - but with funding that relies on taxes, we get what we're willing to pay for.

Ironically, in the same commercial block I just saw the Alli spot, I also saw an ad for a law firm seeking Reglan users (now suffering from Tardive Dyskinesia) for a class-action lawsuit. Of course in advertising, lawsuit ads that replace the pharmaceutical ads just means more revenue.

Ms. Hartvigsen goes on to say "My husband's a doctor. And if he didn't think Alli was safe, he wouldn't let me use it."

This one really struck me. One, I guess we must assume he's an MD and not a PhD. Even so, his non-appearance is also a non-endorsement. Although it isn't illegal for doctors to endorse drugs in direct-to-consumer advertising as long as its disclosed (usually in fine print you can't read even if you were to pause it on a 60-inch, 3-D, high-definition home theatre system), it's discouraged by the AMA. So they may have smartly chosen not to have her husband appear in the ad. Yet, hearsay is inadmissible in court (according to all of the legal TV I love to watch) and in advertising, in my opinion.

Two, she assumes since he didn't stop her from taking it, it indicates it must be safe. Because doctors never lie. And neither do husbands.

Three, "he wouldn't let me use it" is just an uncomfortable expression - this is scripted so they worked very hard on word choice. If he is prescribing for family members, it brings its own set of legal/ethnical questions; plus, she the pharmacist and he the doctor (indirectly) receive financial compensation for this endorsement. Not exactly objective. Or did she mean he allows her to use it? For me, that can be interpreted as permission/control, even if it wasn't intended. Perhaps I need a pill for not letting the details go.

I'm not a doctor but for what it's worth, if you need to lose weight and have issues with diet, seek out a nutritionist, not a pill. Join or create a support group to reach your goals with family, friends or coworkers. Go to a gym. If you can't afford a gym (financially or life is just too busy), take a daily walk. If you can't take a daily walk, take a weekly walk.

I can see the recalls now. Can you?