A focus for current concerns originated from a study published in the journal Diabetes in 2013 by Professor Peter Butler from the University of California, Los Angeles. He described physical changes, similar to pre-cancerous lesions, in the pancreas of organ donors who had previously received Incretin based drugs compared with other people who had received other anti-diabetic drugs.

The study in question was small and only detailed 8 patients. It is therefore limited by way of its conclusions. However, it added some weight to a body of published research implicating Incretin based therapy as a cause of pancreatitis. Although these studies do not prove such an association they seem to be suggesting one.

One such study by Singh and colleagues from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine published a research article in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2013 reporting an increase in the number of hospital admissions due to acute pancreatitis in users of Incretin based therapies. We need to try to understand why this paper should be reporting this problem whilst others do not.

There has been a lot of critical research analysis on this topic already. Most of the criticism of the published studies so far relate to concerns about study design and the factors which confound and confuse the evidence. The jury is still out but reassuringly so far the balance favours continued use of the medication. There is no convincing evidence that widespread use of these drugs increases pancreatitis incidence to any worrying degree.

The fact remains that this is an extremely important area to review and we still need to search for more evidence. This is coming and there are several clinical studies that reassuringly have failed to support the idea that pancreatitis is linked to these diabetic therapies.

We need to look at why pancreatitis might occur in people with diabetes in order to try to understand why there might be discrepancies in the results of these different studies.

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