A closer look at the distribution of number needed to treat (NNT): a Bayesian approach

Biostatistics. 2003 Jul;4(3):365-70. doi: 10.1093/biostatistics/4.3.365.


In this paper, I present a Bayesian approach to estimation of the number needed to treat (NNT). The use of NNT as a measure of clinical benefit is now becoming commonplace. Various methods of estimation have been proposed, but none of them seem to provide entirely good estimates. Very little has been done to understand the statistical properties of NNT. Here, I derive the posterior distribution of NNT and use simulations to investigate the general behaviour of the distribution. The posterior mode of the distribution is proposed as a point estimate and results are compared with the conventional method of estimation of NNT done by inversion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Sample Size*
  • Statistical Distributions