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!