Don’t be Fooled by the Numbers!

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“Imagine a new blood pressure medication is tested against an older medication for one year. Everyone in the study has high blood pressure: 100 people take the new medication, 2 have heart attacks; another 100 people take the older medication, 3 have heart attacks. So for people with high blood pressure taking the new medication, we expect one less heart attack per year for every 100 people using it. This is absolute risk. Looking at the same information as relative risk, the new medication reduces heart attack risk by 33 percent or one third. If 12 out of 100 of the new medication users have heart attacks and 18 out of 100 people taking the older medication do also, then the new medication still reduces the relative risk of heart attack by one third or 33 percent.” Relative risk percentages often sounds more impressive, and are often used in marketing by drug companies. (from an article by Dr. Alisa Hideg, published in The Spokesman-Review)

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