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5555 N. Lamar Blvd., Suite K-104 Austin TX 78751  512.656.3060  ©2008-2016 Medical Arts Acupuncture

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What We Don’t Hear...

“There are two potentially effective screening tools for prostate cancer, one which will reduce their chances of dying from the disease by between 20 and 30 percent, while the other will save one life after 10,000 person-years of screening [...] the two programmes are the same, they were just packaged differently.” – Professor Michael Baum in Doctoring Data by Malcolm Kendrick

 

Let’s say I give medication A to 100 people and nothing to 100 people. At the end of the year, 1 person dies from people taking medication, and 2 people die from the other group.

• Absolute difference is 1 in 100, or 1%.

• Relative difference is 1/2, or 50%. I can say medication A reduces the risk of dying by 50%.

I give medication B to 1000 people and nothing to 1000 people. At the end of the year, 1 person dies from people on medication B, and 2 people die from the other group.

• Absolute difference is 1 in 1000, or 0.1%.

Relative difference is still 1/2, 50%. I can say medication B reduces the risk of dying by 50%.

 

Benefits mentioned in most articles we read are relative benefits, and absolute benefits are often buried somewhere. Are the researchers lying? Absolutely not. But do you see the problem with just looking at relative benefits/risks? I hope so.

 

I think it is important to know both relative and absolute benefits/risks, so you can make an informed decision. If you don’t know, you may be in for a bad surprise. I highly recommend Doctoring Data by Malcolm Kendrick..

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