Following the recommendation of orlistat for direct-to-OTC approval in Japan, anti-obesity drug Alli has been granted final marketing approval by the Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare. Taisho, which gained the rights to develop and market orlistat in Japan from GSK in 2009, is yet to announce the product’s release date.
Victoria Blake, head of Competitive Intelligence & Market Analysis (CIMA), writes: The World Health Organisation reports that worldwide obesity has almost tripled since 1975 – in 2016, almost 2bn adults were overweight. However, a report in 2020 found that across 7 major markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan and USA), Japan had the lowest total prevalence of obesity at 4%. While orlistat is a welcome innovation to the self-care market as a scientifically-proven solution to weight loss, it is notable that the target audience appears to be significantly smaller than in some Western markets (prevalence was reported at 40% for the USA). Nevertheless, serious government concerns regarding the economic healthcare impact of obesity in Japan’s older population led to the Metabo Law in 2008, which attempts to address obesity concerns through regular monitoring of waist size in those aged 40-74 years. Alli was switched in the USA in 2007 and in the EU in 2009 (the first drug to go through the EU Centralised procedure). Lack of repeat purchases was a key factor behind limited growth for the brand, consumers prone to expecting “miracle cures” and rapid results when it comes to weight loss vs faith in longer-term, proven regimen. We watch with interest to see how Taisho’s strategy unfolds for orlistat in this new market.
Nicholas Hall Writes: I wanted to lead with this story this week, not because Alli is a wonder brand – sadly, it failed in the consumer market – but because of the huge unmet demand for effective weight loss products, which is rightly pointed out by my colleague Victoria Blake. In fact, there is no other sector in consumer health where demand is so high and delivery so poor. In all other sectors we have great products and the job is communicating their benefits to consumers. This is the exact reverse, where demand is almost unlimited among an increasingly overweight population, but where we just don’t have safe and effective products in consumer health or indeed in the prescription market. So no one who reads this column will be surprised that weight loss and obesity is to be a major topic covered in my signature report, New Paradigms 2023 – the Future Resumed.
One of the problems that Alli faced was honesty. The brand was marketed in terms of delivering major benefits, but those benefits could only be achieved if consumers modified their lifestyle as well. This they were largely unwilling to do, and there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that consumers taking a weight loss product feel empowered to consume more of their favourite foods and drinks, even though contrary to the necessary changes that enable it to be effective. And, of course, weight loss brands stress simplicity, not the complex set of lifestyle changes necessary to deliver benefits.
We are delighted to announce that Nicholas will explore “The Future Resumed” in the upcoming 2023 edition of his signature New Paradigms report! Offering insights into unmet consumer needs, demographic drivers, emerging markets and more, this report will provide an essential strategic review of key factors impacting the CHC industry. To pre-order your copy at a discounted rate, or for more information, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.