NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -

A half million dollars to prevent one case of prostate cancer?

Posted By


Why doesn’t this kind of cost analysis make it into stories?

An AP story last week on Avodart being tried for prostate cancer DID give the NNT or number needed to treat, but didn’t project the cost analysis behind that NNT.

The story said that “to prevent a single case of cancer, 71 men would have to take finasteride [a similar drug] for 7 years.” But it didn’t then do the math. The story says Avodart is $3 per pill, so—

71 men x 365 days/yr. x 7 yrs. x $3/pill = $544,215 to prevent a single case of prostate cancer.

How can these kinds of numbers be left out of stories?

You might also like


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Ian Spatz

May 4, 2009 at 8:46 am

Great point. However, the tougher question is “is it worth it?”. You’d have to ask what the costs of cancer treatment would be. You’d also have to ask how many years of quality adjusted life you’d gain from avoiding this one cancer. If, for arguments sake, you’d avoid $100k in treatment costs and add ten years to someone’s life, that cost may look quite reasonable (compared to other spending in our health care system).
I support your call for perspective in health news reporting. However, real perspective is tough to come by.