There’s a statistical concept called “number needed to treat” or NNT that could be helpful in your situation. It simply discloses the number of people that need to take the medication in order to prevent one adverse event. Here’s a site with an introductory video about the concept.
If the number, for example is 1000, then the odds are in your favor that your risk of not taking the med is very low. An NNT of 1000 means that 1000 people would have to take the med to prevent one adverse event. If the number is 12, then that risk is much more elevated.
NNT is an accessible way to analyze these kind of issues and is easily understandable by most patients. Often considered at the same time is the rate of side effects. If the side-effect rate is 1 in a 1000, then risk is very low. If 1 in 10 then that risk rises dramatically.
So, if the NNT is 1000 and side-effect rate is 1 in 10 then that makes the treatment much less attractive. Alternately, if the NNT is 10 and the side effect rate is 1 in a 1000 then that argues for taking the med as the risk is favorable.
Unfortunately, as most of the statin and other cholesterol lowering med studies are financed by Big Pharma, they will often conduct a “run-in” phase of the study where people who experience side-effects will be screened out before the study formally starts. I believe this “thumb on the scale” tactic is disingenuous and misleads more casual readers of the medical literature.
So, natural follow-up questions to a doc who cites a study to support use of a new med is this: “What is the rate of side-effects?” and “Was there a run-in period that eliminated people with immediate side effects from the study cohort?”
My experience with my cardiologist is that I was the one who raised the NNT idea. He was familiar with it but did not offer much comment. I’ve read elsewhere that many docs do not include NNT statistics in their discussion of heart disease with their patients.
Did you watch the video link that @Laddie provided up-thread? I learned a lot about micro-vascular disease, something I have have had little knowledge about before your raising the issue. I was only familiar with the term in the context of retinopathy and nephropathy. The eyes and kidneys include very small blood vessels.