Cooperating for better care.


Tag Archives

Taking aim at the NNT



Hilda Bastian, a clinical-research scientist,  calls the  Number Needed to Treat (NNT) statistic overhyped and confusing.

“I  believe the NNT really isn’t suitable for communicating with patients. And that’s not just because it takes data about patients, inverts it to a ‘treater’ perspective, and then requires them to go through cognitive gymnastics to get back to their point of view. That’s a big part — but not all — of the problem.

“…. There isn’t a powerful justification here for manipulating absolute risk data this way. And there should be no surprise, either, when a survey suggests less than half of clinicians consider themselves able to really understand and explain the NNT.”

”Statistics aren’t value-free, even though they are more objective than many other ways of distilling information. They’re difficult to translate for people who don’t already “get” them very well in their original form. You need lots of context and several statistics to get a handle on the results of most clinical studies anyway. I can understand the desire to invent, or grasp onto, something new. But innovation isn’t always progress, is it?”


Contact Info

(617) 230-4965

Wellesley, Mass