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Questions and answer session
  1. Barbara Myers, Chair, broadcaster, BBC Radio,
  2. Panel: Professor Martin Cowie, Professor Stanton Newman, Dr Michael Kirby, Dr Neil Campbell, Sue Cradock, Anne McKerracher, Norman Evans

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Question: Does the panel think that metformin will be the aspirin of the 21st century?

Norman Evans: Certainly in America, where metformin has not been widely used until recently and is not available generically, it is fast becoming one of the most widely prescribed drugs.

Sue Cradock: The challenge is that it causes some side effects in some people so I don’t think it will be taken up by everyone.

Michael Kirby: In the metformin studies, exercise and diet did rather better than metformin, so patients may take the pill as the easy option but in fact they can do themselves more good by dieting and exercise.

Martin Cowie: I would make a general comment. If you ask a medical student how to treat a condition they will immediately give you a list of drugs. A lot of people coming through nursing college, medical school, and pharmacy school think that modern medicine is all about drugs. Yet medicines are one part of a very much more complex whole. We would do well to invest a little more in communication and understanding where patients come from when they talk about their health.

Question: I am a mother and as a cardiac nurse I feel that I know a lot about healthy diets. My children have packed lunches for school and I try hard to make them healthy, but I still feel I am giving my children far too much salt. I know the government is putting pressure on the food industry to reduce salt but I don’t think it is fast enough.

Sue Cradock: The challenge is around schools and I think that leads back to the issue about having a whole system approach and a strategy around obesity and chronic disease that engages local education authorities and so on. That …

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