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Alli Can’t Do It All: Pills May Increase Unhealthy Behavior

On one hand, GlaxoSmithKline really, really wants you to take their new over-the-counter diet pill, alli. On the other hand, they don’t want you to abandon healthy habits in favor of pill popping.

Unfortunately, according to a recent study, that’s what happens: Consumers considering taking a drug for a condition are likely to give up on the healthy habits that are also necessary to change that condition. They tend to think that they needn’t bother with a healthy lifestyle because the pill will do the job for them.

Even worse, the idea of drugs appears to weaken their conviction that they can actually manage a healthy lifestyle. (Oddly enough, health supplements don’t cause the same erosion of healthy habits, apparently because people take them on faith and see them as natural, not as scientific panaceas.)

So while the company wants to convince you that their pill’s a wonderful thing, they dare not market it as a cure-all for fear that consumers will just rest on the pill’s laurels and head for McDonald’s. They are addressing this by describing alli as a “pill with a plan,” a whole program that “requires a commitment to living your life in a new way as you learn to change your eating and activity habits.”

The study authors, from the Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Wharton School of Business, believe that other pharmaceutical companies may follow Glaxo’s lead, playing up the role of lifestyle changes as a necessary companion of drug-taking instead of marketing their pills as the magic solution to every problem. We’ll see.

Sources: EurekAlert; Journal of Consumer Research

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