Implications of trial results: the potentially misleading notions of number needed to treat and average duration of life gained

Lancet. 2000 Nov 18;356(9243):1757-9. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)03215-3.


Consider a physician advising a patient to start antihypertensive treatment. He has the unenviable task of presenting often conflicting trial data in a comprehensible manner. He must justly represent the known risks and benefits such that his patient can make a reasonably Informed choice. Should the physician cite the number needed to treat or the average duration of life gained to clarify his explanations?

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards
  • Sample Size
  • Survival Analysis