Every day I have patients ask me this one question, “Should I take this drug for let’s say my cholesterol, osteoporosis, or breast cancer?”. Just name the drug and the disease it would be used to treat, and they all want to know if that drug will help them. I confess, I usually don’t know but I know who has the answer! It is the manufacturer of that drug, who by law has to give the information to the FDA Food and Drug administration. Each manufacturer gives out the relative risk reduction which is the number we see in an ad or on our television. It’s what you market a drug on. For example, Prolia, which is a commonly prescribed drug for osteoporosis; the relative risk reduction is 68% but the absolute risk reduction i.e. the likelihood that this drug will prevent a fracture is 4.8%. With that information you can decide if it is worth taking it and some of the side effects prolia can cause. Fosamax, and other drugs for osteoporosis, the manufacturer says the relative risk reduction is over 50% but, the absolute risk reduction is 1%.

Tamoxifen is a drug used for women with breast cancer to reduce estrogen and to decrease disease reoccurrence. The relative risk reduction is 66% and the absolute risk reduction is 3.2%. Lipitor is one of the top drugs to lower cholesterol in the world. Its absolute risk reduction is less than 1%, so taking that drug there is less than 1% chance that the drug will lower your cholesterol which will prevent a heart attack. This is the reason your doctor gives you a cholesterol lowering drug is to prevent a heart attack. Crestor is another very popular cholesterol lowering drug that has a relative risk reduction of 54% and absolute risk reduction is 0.4%. Eliquis is a drug a lot of doctors use if you have atrial fibrillation to prevent a clot from breaking off in the body and causing a stroke. The relative risk reduction is 21% and the absolute risk reduction is % 0.33%.

You can take any drug and look at what the relative risk reduction or the absolute risk reduction is for that drug. If you are still having a problem, ask your doctor. He/ She is up with all if the latest relative and absolute risk reduction numbers for these drugs which will allow you to make the right choice of what medicine you should or should not take. Remember we, Doctors, are here to give patients the information so they can make their own decisions.