Number needed to treat & number needed to treat needlessly

Posted By



See this new website, which could be a terrific resource for journalists and for the general public.

But also be aware of the suggestion that the NNT or number needed to treat be complemented by the NTN – the number treated needlessly,

Read about it here.

Thanks to Dr. Russell Harris of the University of North Carolina for this tip. Dr. Harris was my gracious host this week as I spoke to his MD-MPH students about our project and also to members of the division of general internal medicine. Many new friends.

You might also like

Comments (6)

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


October 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Thanks for the linkage! Part of our hope is to make the site accessible for people at large, so we can have honest discussions about benefit and harm (based on the best but still often flawed data available).
Like the NTN idea as well.

Elaine Schattner, M.D.

October 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I’m a bit concerned about, which offers “data” put together by what’s listed as a team of ER physicians. I hope they get their statistics and NNT calculations right: Otherwise, their results could be dangerous/misleading to journalists who read this health journalism review blog, and to the public.

Graham Walker

October 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Dr. Schattner–
All the sources for our reviews/summaries are linked in the lower half of each page, including our own evaluation of the caveats and problems with the sources and original research. They’re frequently but not always summaries of Cochrane systematic reviews, which are usually the highest-quality information out there.
I’m not sure how our specialty relates to the information; yes, many of the reviews are focused on acute illness, since that’s the data we know the best, but we’re certainly hoping to expand to other fields as well. For example, we just added a review on strength and balance training for falls in elderly patients at risk.
Our review editor, Dr. David Newman, edits all the reviews for content and accuracy, and is incredibly well-versed in the literature, and we frequently discuss how best to categorize and display the information.
I certainly agree misleading results would be concerning, but I really think this is a summary of the best data that’s out there on a topic. Are we simplifying the data? Most certainly, but I think it’s better to have a site with access to a summary and the full article than the current state of much health journalism and the public, which frequently talks about correlation as causation and frequently misinterprets and misunderstands biostatistics.