Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Selling an Organization

Bob Fiddaman has an interesting post about the Obesity Society and its ties to GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the weight loss pill Alli. Yes, the Alli of I Pooped My Pants fame.

Bob noted that, in the new video promoting Alli, it is mentioned that a portion of sales of a new book that discusses weight loss will be donated to the Obesity Society. Bob connects the dots by noting that the Obesity Society needed funding, GSK provides some funding for the Obesity Society, and that GSK was about to launch a diet pill (Alli).

I also noticed that, on the Obesity Society's website, it is stated that

On February 7th, the Food and Drug Administration approved Alli, an over-the-counter version of orlistat (trade name Xenical). Alli, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, will be available in June. It is a 60mg version of Xenical, which has been available as a prescription product for several years. Xenical, at 120mg, will continue to be available to patients needing a higher dose and who are under a physician's care. Prescription Xenical is made by Roche. Obesity Society President Eric Ravussin was quoted on the front page of USA Today indicating that the product was safe and effective. GlaxoSmithKline's educational efforts include a paperback book on weight loss; part of the proceeds of the book's sale will go to The Obesity Society. The society has received other support from GlaxoSmithKline.

Part of GSK’s “educational” efforts as well as part of GSK’s marketing, but the Obesity Soceity wouldn’t want to draw attention to that. You can also see what’s happening with corporate sponsorship of their meeting. Here’s a snippet…

Become a Benefactor of the Obesity Society's 2007 Annual Scientific Meeting and heighten awareness of your company and product(s) among the experts and thought leaders in the obesity field. Benefactor Sponsorship provides the most economical way to reach all of the 2,000+ Annual Meeting attendees frequently before, during, and after the meeting:


  • Sponsorship of 3 general sessions:
    • One Symposium
    • One Workshop/Tutorial/Debate
    • One Key Lecture
  • Sponsor recognition in registration area
  • Sponsor logo on Learning Center Website (your choice of ONE the four Annual Meeting Tracks) OR sponsor logo on attendee registration bags
  • Sponsor recognition on meeting website
  • Sponsor recognition in several issues of The Obesity Society’s electronic newsletter
  • Sponsor recognition in all on-site publications
    • Final Program
  • Abstract Supplement
  • Complimentary insert into attendee registration bag
  • Complimentary use of one mailing list of:
    • Pre-registered attendees ( 4 - 6 weeks prior to meeting)
    • Final meeting attendee list (approx 2,300 names)

Sponsorship Fee: $50,000

It’s nice that researchers pay membership dues to join the Obesity Society, then their organization sells the names of members to corporate sponsors so that members can then receive solicitations.

I understand that the Obesity Society needs money and that obesity researchers likewise require funding for their research. I wonder, however, if this is the proper manner in which to raise funds.

This works great for the sponsors. Their products (such as Alli) are featured prominently in advertising that is received by Obesity Society members. They get to recruit “thought leaders” from the Obesity Society ranks, who will then go forth and speak on behalf of their products. The Obesity Society is by no means unique. The American Psychiatric Association, for example, has long been noted for its strong ties with corporate sponsors. Yet these organizations call themselves independent.

As a side note, how well does Alli work? According to one abstract of a trial comparing low-dose orlistat (Alli) to placebo over 16 weeks, Alli patients lost 3.05 kilograms compared to 1.90 kgs lost by those taking placebo. Pretty small difference, yet the president of the Obesity Society (quoted above) seemed impressed. I wonder why?

1 comment:

Fid said...

GSK have also sponsored an up and coming series of programmes soon to be aired on PBS.

The programmes are entitled

"Fat: What No One Is Telling You"

Another coincidence?