Test 73, Section 4, Question 6 - Evaluate
Clinician: Patients with immune system disorders are usually treated with a class of drugs that, unfortunately, increase the patient’s risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone-loss disease. So these patients take another drug that helps to preserve existing bone. Since a drug that enhances the growth of new bone cells has now become available, these patients should take this new drug in addition to the drug that helps to preserve existing bone.
Which one of the following would be most useful to know in order to evaluate the clinician’s argument?
How large is the class of drugs that increase the risk of developing osteoporosis?
Why are immune system disorders treated with drugs that increase the risk of developing osteoporosis?
Is the new drug more expensive than the drug that helps to preserve existing bone?
How long has the drug that helps to preserve existing bone been in use?
To what extent does the new drug retain its efficacy when used in combination with the other drugs?
First, attack the argument.
My objection here is simply “wait, why would you need to take both”? It seems to me that a drug that preserves existing bone would be fine, as long as it works. Alternatively, a drug that enhances the growth of new bone cells might work just as well on its own—or maybe even better. Are we sure that we want to preserve old bone and grow new bone? What if this makes our bones grow twice as thick as they need to be, therefore rendering us too heavy to get out of bed, much less walk, run, or jump?
As long as I can make an objection, I should be good. Now, which one of the five answer choices is a question that helps us determine whether the argument is good or bad?
A. Huh? No. We’re talking about whether patients should take this new drug in addition to the old drug. I don’t care if there are a million other anti-osteoporosis drugs on the market or zero others. It makes no difference to whether patients should take both the old drug they were already taking and this new drug.
B. I don’t care. The fact is, certain immune disorder drugs have the unfortunate side effect of causing osteoporosis. That might be for reason X, Y, or Z and it has no bearing on whether patients should take both the new drug and the old drug.
C. I don’t care about this either. I’m wondering why the clinician is recommending both drugs, rather than one or the other. I don’t see how cost is relevant. Maybe it’s zero, maybe it’s a million bucks. That has no bearing on bone preservation itself.
D. Nope. Maybe it’s been on the market for 100 years, maybe just one year. The fact is, there’s a new drug on the market. The length of tenure of the new drug has no bearing on whether patients would be better off taking the new drug in addition to the old one.
E. Yup. My objection up top was related to taking the new drug on top of the old drug. If the new drug, combined with the old drug, loses its efficacy (or, like I was worried about, becomes super-effective and turns your leg bones into redwood trees) then it seems like a stupid plan to take both drugs. On the other hand, maybe the new drug plays super nice with the old drug and patients trying to avoid osteoporosis would be much better off taking both drugs instead of just one.
As the answer to E changes from “not at all” to “very much,” my assessment of the clinician’s recommendation changes from “very bad” to “just fine.” That’s how I know that E is the best question to ask.