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New diet drug: Accidents may happen


3 Star

New diet drug: Accidents may happen

Our Review Summary

This story discusses a new over-the-counter drug for weight loss, Alli, with little evidence about whether it works, and how much weight loss is expected. The story focuses on a side-effect of the drug, anal leakage.  The story provides some explanation for the mode of action for this drug, interfering with fat absorption, as opposed to appetite suppression. It should have included some information about efficacy of Xenical, the prescription strength version of this drug, as a frame of reference. While the information provided in the story is important and useful to consumers considering the use of this product, it could have done a better job providing context in terms of prevalence of the risks and a little more detail on the benefits that might be gained from the use of this product.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to provide information about the cost of this product.  It did mention the $50 starter kit price, but did not include information about the cost of continual use of this product.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The enhanced weight loss that an individual may achieve with the use of Alli was reported to be 50% greater than if they followed a comparable weight loss diet without taking Alli.  While the story did mention that this estimate of weight loss enhancement came from the manufacturer, information from an independent source would be of greater value to readers.

 And while the story included testimony from an individual who commented that they found the product helpful for staying on track and losing 20 pounds, the story did not include any estimate for the percentage of people who did, indeed, find this product sufficiently beneficial in terms of weight loss that they continue using it to attain their goal.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


Anal leakage, one side effect, was emphasized in the story.  In addition, the story mentioned that the drug decreased absoprtion of fat soluble vitamins.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story did include an estimate for enhanced weight loss with this product and did mention that the estimate came from the drug company (GlaxoSmithKline) that makes the drug, it did not include any discussion of clinical studies that have been conducted with the drug. 

The focus of the story is one particular side effect, anal leakage, of the weight loss drug Alli.  The story did not provide any estimate for the proportion of individuals who experience this side effect. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does not engage in overt disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story did turn to several sources, although one was from the drug company and another was promoting her book.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story discussed that this drug offers a dieter a slight edge; it alludes to other weight loss drugs, and, although mentioning low fat recipes supplied with the drug, the story did not adequately address the requirement of reduced caloric intake and/or increased caloric expenditure for weight loss.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story leads off with a statement that includes the information that Alli is an over-the counter weight loss drug.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story accurately reported that the over-the-counter drug Alli is a lower-dose version of the prescription drug Xenical.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely solely or largely on a press release.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory


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