Demand for Alli, the first over the counter pound-shedding pill has rocketed since the diet drug went on sale last Friday. Amazon and Drugstore report blockbuster sales at around $50 for a month's supply.
Searches for "alli" zoomed into Google's top 200 movers, and related search queries such as "alli pill" (+704%), "buy alli" (+456%), and "alli orlistat" (+334%) also surged.
Reporting these figures, Google also quoted the Myalli website as warning users to take a change of clothes to work, and making sure they had clear access to a bathroom.
The FDA says Alli blocks enzymes that digest fat, preventing the body from absorbing about a quarter of the fat eaten. The undigested fat is then excreted - hence the advice quoted above.
Alli, sold by GlaxoSmithKline, is a half-dose of the prescription drug orlistat. The drug has been sold in prescription form under the brand name Xenical since 1999, but the launch this week has turned those figures inside out.
The hysteria seems to have arisen from the results of one study that reported dieters who took the weight loss pill along with diet and exercise over a year lost about three pounds more than people who only dieted and exercised.
Side effects, however, can include oily discharge, diarrhea and uncontrollable bowel movements significant enough for even the company to recommend carrying an extra pair of pants until users have acclimated to the drug. The side effects alone can force users to eat less.
And looking at the myalli web site, there is a lot of information that anywhere else would be regarded as sound dietary and nutritional advice rather than something you'd expect to find attached to a so-called wonder-drug. Tips such as "start trimming fat from your diet now, even before you begin taking alli".
I don't know. The appeal must be to desperate people. It's a fact that dieting can work to a point, and then weight and condition plateaus. There are currently experiements in progress testing whether that effect alone - swapping between diets - can have more benefit than sticking to one diet alone.
But when the producers add warning such as this, I'd be looking at other options: "... pick a day to begin taking alli, such as a weekend day so you can stay close to home if you experience a treatment effect. Make the timing work for you. If you're getting ready to travel or attend a social event, hold off on starting with alli until the event is over."
Ladies - search demographics show that the Alli weight loss pill will be most popular with women, with a whopping 75% of Google's queries come from females - be careful.