Mark Twain once quoted British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli by Stating “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The use of graphics and/or statistics can be and has been used to misrepresent data. In cases like analyzing a relative risk reduction vs. absolute risk reduction, statistics are looked at to decide if taking a medication or having a procedure done is a beneficial intervention. At first glance a relative risk reduction statistic can give the impression that results were outstanding, but you must also look at the absolute risk reduction. An example to this was offered by Dr. Ed Pullen (2010): Reports showed a great benefit to taking Fosamax to reduce the occurrences of hip fractures. A significant drop from 2.2% to 1.0% was noted by JAMA showing that over a course of 4 years’ women with osteoporosis sustained less hips fractures using this medication. This would be an absolute reduction of 1.2% over a 4-year period, annually 0.3%. Dr. Pullen states “This is reported by the makers of Fosamax acutely as a 56% reduction in risk, which is true but misleading.” When calculating using a different formula you would discover that you would in actuality only be preventing 1 hip fracture out of 88 women treated in a 4-year period.
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