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“Number Needed to Treat” Statistic in the Wild–II

July 24, 2009

Be cautious when utilizing the number needed to treat in your analysis.  It can become very tricky in studies with varying follow-up times.

Trials that based the computation of the number needed to treat on the simple proportion of patients with the outcome, ratherthan the Kaplan–Meier estimates, may have distorted values of the number needed to treat.1,2,3 Other trials have accounted for varying follow-up times by using, instead, the incidence rate computed as the number of patients with the outcome divided by the total amount of person-time.4,5 However, the corresponding number needed to treat, although based on the incidence rates, was interpreted as the number needed to treat to prevent one occurrence of the outcome among patients treated for a given period, which may be incorrect.

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