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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: In evaluating studies published in 5 widely circulated journals, Dr Nuovo and colleagues1 found that only 8 of 359 eligible articles reported the number needed to treat (NNT), despite the fact that the reporting of NNT is recommended by the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) group.2 Although the authors suggest that NNT allows " . . . comparisons with the amount of effort needed to prevent the same or other events in patients with other disorders," we would like to point out that such comparisons can be misleading.