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Favorable Spin

Lots of drug study results are being disseminated with a favorable spin. Presenting the SAME results in different ways using different statistical methods actually, affects prescribing.

For example, physicians are more likely to prescribe Simvastatin when told it reduces mortality by 30% instead of saying it improves survival from 88.5% to 91.8%. But these are just different ways of saying the same thing from the same study. It’s important to understand how the results are presented.

Relative risk vs. absolute risk is often misunderstood. Relative risk numbers are what usually grab headlines because they sound impressive. For example, ads tout a 67% lower risk of patients stopping Biaxin XL compared to regular Biaxin due to side effects. This sounds dramatic but it really isn’t. The 67% is a RELATIVE risk reduction. The ABSOLUTE risk reduction is only 2% a difference from 3% to 1% of all patients.

Terry Pfau, D.O. H.M.D.

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