389 – Why Are People on So Many Prescription Drugs?

Do Your Prescription Drugs Really Help You Be Healthier?

According to Mayo Clinic, nearly 70% of Americans use at least one prescription drug. More than half take two. Many people take more. I find this astounding. How is it that the majority of people need medications. Are we really that sick? This used to puzzle me. How is it that our national health is so poor that three fourths of Americans need medical drug intervention? I think now I have an answer. They don’t. Why do I think that?


Many people on prescription drugs for cholesterol, modest high blood pressure, osteoporosis (and others) do not need the drugs and will not benefit from taking them. If that sounds like a bold statement, then I ask you to let the science prevail. As it turns out you have to treat a lot of people with the drugs just to have a small percentage of positive impact. For example, 100 people need to be treated with statin drugs for 4 years to stop 1 heart attack. This is the NNT. Number Needed to Treat. 100 to 1. This is the drug model. Treat many people to benefit few.

In this podcast, I will explain why you need to understand the NNT to appreciate why you may not need or benefit from the prescribed medications. Let me also be clear that this is only one way to measure the benefit and risk with regard to your personal health. The more you understand the better conversations you can have with your doctor and the better outcomes your are likely to have. Don’t go off your drugs without consulting with your doctor and becoming knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision.

I have provided a PDF article that will explain the NNT and the calculations. You will also learn about RRR (Relative Risk Reduction) and ARR (Absolute Risk Reduction). These numbers are available in the medical literature. It is becoming easier to discover these numbers as we are realizing that many drugs do not benefit most of the people who take them. Even the very best drugs are only effective in 10 to 30% of the people who take them. Worse is the fact that thousands and thousands of consumers are taking drugs that will not provide them benefit. We take these drugs because we believe they have been shown effective and we are afraid to go without. The reality is they are not all that effective and we will possibly or even likely do worse because of the side effects and additional drugs which are then prescribed.

CLICK HERE to read my article on the NNT.

The more you learn the more confident you will become that you have options regarding your health care and you have options regarding the drugs you take. Knowing that the medications are only effective for a percentage of users, and for many drugs that percentage is very low, then it should at least give you pause. It can also give you confidence to question the drugs you do take in order to gauge their effectiveness in your particular case.

I am embedding this video from Markito Nutrition, Canada. It provides a graphics illustration that will help you further visualize the importance of the NNT. I am not associated with Markito Nutrition. The presenter is Marc Jaoude, Health and Wellness Director.

Here is a list of some of the most popular medications and the estimated NNT. Lower is better. Remember, this is the number of patients that must be treated for 1 person to benefit. Are you the 1 or are you among the many?

  • Lyrica: NNT = 10
  • Antibiotics for Sinusitis: NNT = 15
  • Warfarin to prevent strokes: NNT = 25
  • Warfarin to prevent heart attacks: NNT = 43
  • Nexium: NNT =50
  • Fosamax: NNT = 50
  • Crestor/Lipitor: NNT = 100
  • Blood Pressure Drugs: NNT = 140
  • Aspirin for Cardiac Prevention: NNT = 1667 to 3000

You can find the NNT for many medications simply by searching the terms “NNT for (drug name). Here is one reference sites: TheNNT.com. There are others.

What are we trying to accomplish with the use of prescription medications? With statin drugs and blood pressure drugs, the prevailing wisdom says this treatment reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes and reduce mortality. But the science says they are 1% or less effective. So 99 people take drugs that will not be beneficial and may have negative side effects for 1 person to be helped. Again I ask: are you the 1 or among the many.

Steve Lankford

Steve Lankford

Steve Lankford is the host and producer of HealthQuestPodcast.com. Steve has over 45 years in the natural products industry. He has worked with thousands of consumers helping them understand their nutrition and to make better choices. First through Health Quest Radio Show and now with HealthQuestPodcast.com, Steve has interviewed hundreds of doctors, researchers, manufacturers and scientists exploring the benefits of nutrition and natural living. His knowledge and skill as an educator and interviewer is recognized by many of the best nutritional experts.

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