You see the headlines often, warning you about the newfound dangers of a well-known prescription medicine, from antacids that may increase the risk of hip fractures to sleeping pills that may cause “sleep-driving.” So what should you do when a prescription drug you’re taking appears in the news?
Talk with your healthcare provider. Don’t stop taking any drug—even daily aspirin—until you find out from your provider how it may affect you directly.
You and your doctor can discuss any actual risks involved. Sometimes the news sounds serious but may be less dire than it first seems. For instance, one component of the large-scale Women’s Health Initiative study on hormone replacement therapy was stopped in 2002 when it found that heart attack risk increased 29 percent in women who took estrogen and progestin. While that sounds like a lot, in real numbers it’s a difference of just eight women (29 instead of 21) out of 10,000. Breast cancer risk increased 26 percent, also a difference of eight women (38 instead of 30) in 10,000.
Eight in 10,000 sounds a lot less risky than 29 percent. When you think of the numbers this way, you and your provider can decide whether the actual risks outweigh the benefits for you—or vice versa. If you think your treatment is too risky, discuss alternatives such as a different dose, another drug or dietary changes.
Whatever you do, don’t be hasty. Stick to your treatments. But get the information you need from your most trusted source—your doctor.