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

June 8, 2010

[from Businessweek]

Excellent description of why the “number needed to treat” is important (from the header of the graphic):

How well do drugs work?  Ads and news stories usually say that a medicine slashes the risk of, say, heart attacks by a big number, like 50%.  But that often overstates the benefit, because it fails to provide the absolute risk.  If only 2 people in a group of 100 are expected to have a heart attack, then a drug that cuts the rate by 50% prevents just 1 heart attack when taken by all 100 people.  That’s why researchers favor using the “number needed to treat” (NNT).  It shows how many people must take a drug for one person to benefit.

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