HEALTH

GSK education initiative for alli to focus on expert advice

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH Because it’s a different kind of “diet aid” that’s advertised as “not for everyone,” GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare this week announced plans for a different kind of New Year campaign to appeal to the many consumers resolving to lose weight in 2008.

According to a new survey of 2,058 adults, conducted in late November by Harris Interactive on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline, 52 percent of Americans say they plan to make a serious attempt to lose weight next year.

GlaxoSmithKline is underwriting free access to expert advice from healthcare professionals as part of its promotion of alli, as opposed to billboarding the sexy before-and-after pictures of successful dieters typical of the category.

“Millions of overweight and obese Americans are incredibly frustrated with their efforts to lose weight, and unrealistic expectations and false hope feed that frustration,” stated Steven Burton, vice president, weight control, for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. “Our goal is to give dieters the knowledge they need to make informed decisions and to help them identify weight-loss strategies that are safe, effective and proven to help them lose weight.”

Dieters value such support, GlaxSmithKline stated, though they rarely take advantage of it—73 percent of U.S. adults who plan to make a serious attempt to lose weight in 2008 believe that outside help from a dietitian, pharmacist or other healthcare professional would help them achieve their weight loss goals, but only 13 percent plan to seek such support.

From Jan. 4-7, alli will sponsor “Make This Year Different,” a weight-loss event designed to ease some of the barriers to seeking expert advice and to help overweight adults benefit from the counsel of healthcare professionals. 

Dieters older than 18 can access that free healthcare advice with one phone call—866-551-DIFFERENT, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.—and will be connected to an actual dietitian or pharmacist. Pre-recorded diet, nutrition, behavioral and exercise tips will also be available through the phone line, and that information will remain accessible through Jan. 31.

Individuals can also visit www.MakeThisYearDifferent.com between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST for live online chats with dietitians or pharmacists, in either a private or group chat room discussion. The web site will also feature diet and exercise videos and answers to common questions about the alli weight-loss program.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare announced in October that it had sold more than 2 million alli starter packs at retail.

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NPA highlights difference between steroids and dietary supplements

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON While the sporting nation debates whether the records of accused steroid users Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens should receive an asterisk, the Natural Products Association on Friday looked to apply an asterisk of their own.

Steroids and dietary supplements are mutually exclusive, the association stated. “The idea that athletes were unwittingly ingesting steroids in the dietary supplements they innocently purchased at a health food store has been exposed as the ridiculous notion it always was,” the association noted. “The fact that the performance-enhancing substances purchased in the report needed to be obtained surreptitiously by a third party, typically at a high cost, should have been evidence enough to an athlete that the product was likely to be illegal. Clearly, calling such products ‘dietary supplements’ was an attempt to gain legitimacy and mask their real contents.”

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Year-end sees increased FSA traffic at drugstore.com

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. Drugstore.com on Monday announced that traffic to its online Flexible Spending Account Store is increasing significantly as the end of the year approaches.

“Internet retail is uniquely suited to service FSA Account holders because our online store can carry a much wider selection of eligible items compared to brick-and-mortar stores that are limited by shelf space,” stated David Lonczak, vice president and chief marketing officer, drugstore.com. “Our customers also appreciate the fact that we do the FSA accounting for them, making reimbursements or FSA debit cards a snap as they shop on our site throughout the year or right now when they need to use their FSA dollars or lose them.”

According to drugstore.com, there are an estimated 24 million pre-tax healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts in the United States. Any money left in FSAs at the end of the plan year can’t be rolled over or refunded. So for many FSA account holders it’s “use it or lose it” time.

To promote end-of-year FSA blowouts, this year drugstore.com created bundled recommendations of FSA-eligible items that range in cost from $50 to $75, including:

  • general first aid supplies
  • athlete/outdoorsman supplies
  • baby care essentials
  • suggestions for “Dr. Mom”
  • and medicine cabinet basics

Drugstore.com’s list of most-bought FSA-eligible items include, in ranked order, Prilosec OTC, Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor Test Sticks, ibuprofen. 200 mg, Band-Aid Sheer, Sheer Adhesive Bandages and Sight Savers Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Tissues.

Drugstore.com makes it easier for consumers looking to empty their FSA accounts before year’s end by putting more than 3,000 FSA-approved items in one location online. Drugstore.com also provides FSA-only receipts through the web store that customers may choose to print out at any time of the year to turn in for reimbursement.

The online retailer has also set up a payment program that debits an FSA debit card for FSA eligible purchases and prompts for a second form of payment if a non-FSA eligible item is added to the virtual shopping basket.

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