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November 11, 1983

Statistical Indiscretion

Author Affiliations

University of California, Los Angeles

JAMA. 1983;250(18):2470. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340180032013

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To the Editor.—  I read with interest the article by Leppik et al entitled "Double-blind Study of Lorazepam and Diazepam in Status Epilepticus" (1983;249:1452). As a statistician, what interested me most was not the basis of the article but rather the interpretation of the statistical analysis. In particular, the authors commented: "For all other seizure types, lorazepam was effective more frequently. Although the difference is not statistically significant, 32% of the episodes, exclusive of the generalized type, were not controlled by diazepam, while only 12% of these seizure types were not controlled by lorazepam." Unfortunately, this type of comment is still all too often found in the medical literature. The problem here is that the difference looks so large that, regardless of the lack of statistical significance, it must be noteworthy. We must keep in mind that when a statistical test result is nonsignificant, the implication is that the difference