It’s time to say goodbye to the Political Science blog at the Guardian – but we’re moving to a new home
Last week, the results of a successful trial of a new diet pill – lorcaserin – were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and immediately hailed by some as a “holy grail” in the fight against obesity. The study of 12,000 people in the US who were obese or overweight found that those who were given the pills lost an average of 4kg over 40 months.
Was it too good to be true? The conventional coverage of a scientific breakthrough quickly began to be questioned on social media and elsewhere. Who funded the study? Who stood to gain? Given the problematic history of diet pills as a treatment for obesity, would lorcaserin ever be licensed for use in the NHS? Is it worth the £200 per month per patient that it would cost? And were the results so impressive compared to lower-tech public health options, such as slimming clubs, weight management clinics or better food labelling? As with many science stories, complex politics lurk just beneath the shiny veneer.