September 13, 2008

Healthcare: On the Agenda – Doctors Dispute Pill Link to Cancer

- In a nutshell

Doctors have hit back at the publication of a study linking cholesterol-lowering statins to a higher cancer risk. ANew England Journal of Medicine study angered doctors by linking Inegy, a combination of two drugs, to a 50 per centrise in cancer cases. The story made headlines last week. However, doctors subsequently said the results were likely to be an anomaly and urged patients to keep taking their treatments.

- What was the media coverage?

The comments from doctors were covered by the BBC News website. The initial study was covered by most of the nationalpapers. The Daily Mail put the story on the front page, with the headline: 'Cholesterol pill warning - Scientistsraise fears of cancer link to statin used by thousands.'

- Is there a danger of scaremongering when printing these types of stories?

Health stories in the national media can raise awareness of certain disease areas. For example, when singer KylieMinogue spoke out about her breast cancer diagnosis, screenings at some hospitals increased by up to 25 per cent.Conversely parents started to boycott the triple MMR vaccine in the late 1990s following a (later disproven) linkbetween MMR and autism.

- Haven't statins been in the press recently?

Yes. Statins hit the headlines in July following publication of a study in Neurology that suggested takingcholesterol-lowering statins may protect against dementia.

30,000 - prescriptions in England and Wales in the past two years for Inegy

50% - the amount by which Inegy was reported to raise the risk of cancer

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