The news stories have caused a furore. There have been TV programmes, newspaper articles, litigators advertising on the internet and a flood of emails from patients to their doctors requesting help.

Without a medical or scientific training it is very difficult for patients to interpret the clinical relevance or assess the rigor of the scientific method. It is also difficult but important to decipher how transparently we are being told the data.

We are left to work out the relative merits of one part of the story versus another. We realise that news stories will do exactly what they are designed to do, i.e. be controversial whether the story is true or not. But, the subject of pancreatic cancer is emotive, it is bound to get widespread coverage and generate personal concern.

We should be able to answer the questions regarding drug side effects from transparent drug data currently held by the drug companies concerned. Our regulators are supposed to be unbiased and transparent and we have to prove that this is so.

The current controversy has blown up because in trying to answer a legitimate question of drug safety the suggestion is that we are being fobbed off with unsatisfactory answers. The actions and persistence of academics and medical journal editors are to be applauded because in the interests of our patients we need transparency and accountability.

Whenever there is controversy there is usually calm advice somewhere. This often comes from specialist diabetes organisations such as Diabetes UK. Their position on the current controversy regarding Incretin based therapies has been made clear by publishing their advice; i.e. do not panic, do not change treatment and whilst not doing those things await results of further studies looking into this area.

The reason why this advice can be clear and concise is because concern relating to pancreatic cancer with these drugs has not been verified, the results have not been confirmed and clinical relevance has not been clarified.

The one thing that often bemuses me when hearing adverse news stories is the closing final advice: “do nothing without consulting your doctor”. If getting hold of one isn’t hard enough I am not so sure it is that easy to reach a logical conclusion with your General Practitioner on a topic of such enormous complexity that even the editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has been unable to unravel it.

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