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August 21, 2002

Interpreting the Number Needed to Treat

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2002;288(7):830-832. doi:10.1001/jama.288.7.828

To the Editor: Dr Nuovo and colleagues1 claim that the CONSORT statement encourages reporting absolute values and the NNT. In fact, the CONSORT statement does not encourage any specific measure of effect but instead encourages transparency in reporting the methods and results so that reports of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) can be interpreted readily and accurately.2 Indeed, the CONSORT statement recommends that "for each primary and secondary outcome, authors report a summary of results for each group, and the estimated effect size and its precision," but it does not encourage any specific measure of effect. Nevertheless, the CONSORT explanation and elaboration document does suggest that "for binary and survival time data, expressing the results also as the number needed to treat for benefit (NNTB) or harm (NNTH) can be helpful,"3 which does not mean, however, that CONSORT encourages its use in all cases.

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