Will a Medicine Help You? The Numbers Will Shock You!

I love TED. I watch TED programs all the time because in 15-20 minutes they summarize important information that you cannot get anywhere else! This TED is like that.

This is the most important TED you may ever watch in your life. Ignore the beginning and the title since while those are funny and nice, the important part of the message actually comes later! I am wondering how the beginning half of the video connects to the second half–I know there is some resemblance in importance and some connection but the important stuff is in the second half.

The important part is about the numbers used to calculate the percentage of how medicines may help or hurt people for whom they are prescribed! The numbers are so amazing that the process will stop you in your track for any medicine you are taking! Of course no doctor will ever tell you these numbers and the statistical test results of adverse reactions that are included with the medicine do not actually portray the real information you need to know.

Since there is a transcript of the TED video is also available, I am grabbing some of the key points for you in case you do not have the 15-20 minutes to watch this awesome video. Also I find that numbers like this look way better in writing than listened to because they have the chance to dig deeper in your brain.

There is a number called NNT.

What is NNT?

NNT is the number of people needed to be treated (by the medicine or surgery or any procedure) in order to claim one person getting any benefit from the treatment and reach the desired “cure” is achieved.

By all of our selfish thinking, this number should be one. Your doctor would not prescribe anything to you that he/she did not think would help you or would s/he?  To your doctor’s excuse s/he may not actually be aware of what NNT is although it was taught in med school at some point! But this is just as easily forgotten as the metabolic consequences of many medicines or even the metabolic pathways and interactions thereby of the many medicines they prescribe. 


From the transcribed document at the bottom of this video:

GlaxoSmithKline estimates that 90 percent of the drugs work in only 30 to 50 percent of the people. So the number needed to treat for the most widely prescribed statin [cholesterol reduction medicine], what do you suppose it is? How many people have to take it before one person is helped? 300. This is according to research by research practitioners Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, independently confirmed by Bloomberg.com. I ran through the numbers myself. 300 people have to take the drug for a year before one heart attack, stroke or other adverse event is prevented

“Well, OK, one in 300 chance of lowering my cholesterol. Why not, doc? Give me the prescription anyway.” But you should ask at this point for another statistic, and that is, “Tell me about the side effects.” Right? So for this particular drug, the side effects occur in five percent of the patients. And they include terrible things — debilitating muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal distress —but now you’re thinking, “Five percent, not very likely it’s going to happen to me, I’ll still take the drug.”But wait a minute..300 people take the drug, right? One person’s helped, five percent of those 300 have side effects, that’s 15 people. You’re 15 times more likely to be harmed by the drug than you are to be helped by the drug.

Medical ethics requires it, it’s part of the principle of informed consent. You have the right to have access to this kind of information to begin the conversation about whether you want to take the risks or not.

…For the most widely performed surgery on men over the age of 50, removal of the prostate for cancer, the number needed to treat is 49. That’s right, 49 surgeries are done for every one person who’s helped. And the side effects in that case occur in 50 percent of the patients.They include impotence, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, rectal tearing, fecal incontinence. (emphasis added)

Thus your chances of recovery from prostate surgery is very slim plus you are 24.5 times more like to have horrible side effects than not.

Looking at it from this perspective, I would demand to see every single medicine’s NNT from my doctor from now on if I were you! I most certainly will. I do not consider myself to be a guinea pig and wish not to be part of any experiment without my expressly asked for and written consent!

Your comments are welcome as always!


Founder of Stanton Migraine Protocol® and Author of Fighting the Migraine Epidemic and many other books sold worldwide.


About Angela A Stanton, Ph.D.

Angela A Stanton, PhD, is a Neuroeconomist focusing on chronic pain, electrolyte homeostasis, and genetics. She lives in Southern California. Her current research is focused on migraine cause, prevention and treatment without the use of medicines. As a forever migraineur from childhood, her discovery was helped by experimenting on herself. She found the cause of migraine to be at the ionic level, associated with disruption of the electrolyte homeostasis, resulting from genetic variations of all voltage gated channels that modulate electrolytes and voltage in the brain, insulin and glucose transporters, and several other related variants, such as the MTHFR variants of the B vitamin methylation process and many others. Migraineurs are glucose sensitive and should avoid eating carbs as much as possible. As a result of the success of the first edition of her book and new research and findings after treating over 4000 migraineurs world wide, all ages and both genders, she is now finishing the 2nd edition. The 2nd edition is the “holy grail” of migraines, incorporating all there is to know and also hypotheses. It includes an academic research section with suggestions for further research. The book is full of citations to authenticate the statements she makes to be followed up by those interested and to spark further research interest. It is a "Complete Guide". Due out in the summer of 2017. Dr. Stanton received her BSc at UCLA in Mathematics, MBA at UCR, MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, PhD in NeuroEconomics at Claremont Graduate University, and fMRI certification at Harvard University Medical School at the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging for experimenting with neurotransmitters on human volunteers. For relaxation Dr. Stanton paints and photographs. Follow her on Twitter at: @MigraineBook
This entry was posted in Big Pharma, Drugs of Shame, FDA, Healthcare, Interesting reading, Must Read, Thoughts, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Will a Medicine Help You? The Numbers Will Shock You!

  1. Colleen says:

    Do you follow International Health News? He often digs into NNT and absolute vs. relative risk.


    Peter at Hyperlipid is one of my favorites, frequently detailing the overall crappiness of nutritional studies. While it’s often fairly technical, it’s not hard to glide by the complicated parts.


    It never hurts to improve one’s critical thinking skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shees.. starting new thread here Roald because the other one is becoming thin as a pencil! Oh I will try that one day! 😀 Thank you! I may need some info from you to put you in as a recommender. I don’t remember what I needed. I think your email and phone… I will check it out and send you a note. I know I could muse the audience real well and can put a personal twist in (they seem to like that) since I am a migraineur. I could do real well if they let me. ❤


  3. Roald Michel says:

    Just to make sure you receive this.

    You wish to do a TED talk? Try https://speaker-nominations.ted.com/ I mean, for starters 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Roald Michel says:

    What’s your take on naturopathic medicine?

    Btw, here’s a site you could be interested in to publish your stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Naturopaths are great! One of them, Dr. Gonzalez, was using my protocol for his cancer patients and I talked to him on the phone a few days before he “died” sort of like for no reason together with 12 others within 2 months period in the summer… they are great but they all mysteriously get shot by accident.. rumors are abound of who is responsible. Luckily I am not an MD so cannot be considered as one though my work on migraines will pretty much put a HUGE dent into the 13 Billion dollar-a-year profits… tough.. 😉


  5. Thanks, this also is so helpful in my making some important medical decisions right now. I hate to say this to a doctor but I am very disillusioned with the medical profession. It leaves me and others in such a difficult position.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed Louise. We can face our doctors and tell them what we know. Some hate us and they must go and dig dirt elsewhere. Some are open enough to listen (even if just in pretense) and some actually enjoy the help they get. I had a doctor gave me a hug when I took one of the documents in for her and used a highlighter to call her attention to the important stuff. It just makes it easier for those who wish to help! Those are the keepers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Roald Michel says:

    I follow TED since it saw the light of day. It’s great indeed. Alas, as it often happens to other great stuff, the concept began to deteriorate when TEDx popped up 😦

    I sent the video to my doctor 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh boy.. lol… your doctor will not like you much! 😉 What’s wrong with TEDx? I saw many good things. I think the difference is that they are local chapters… isn’t that the case?


      • Roald Michel says:

        It’s all your fault, milady. You made me telling him about salt and sugar, and cholesterol, and migraine, and bacon, and BP, and diabetes, and meat, and bread, and jelly beans. 😀 😛

        Like you said, there are good things there too, but I also saw, although TEDx must follow certain TED guidelines, a lot of local crap using the TED logo. Well…..um…..maybe I’m kind of a quality freak. I just can’t stand mediocre content, as it makes me fall asleep, bores me to the core, and in my view is mostly cloned and/or repetitive. In the end it will only tarnish TED’s reputation.

        Liked by 1 person

I would love to see your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s