What does it take to believe a treatment works?

A lot less than it takes to believe that it doesn’t work, apparently.

Once again, Aaron Carroll of The Incidental Economist has a quick but incredibly important point on how people interpret evidence in medicine.

Following on last week’s publication of the 25-year follow-up of an RCT of screening mammography, he links to the new JAMA paper showing just how little evidence it takes for the FDA to approve a new treatment. You should read the whole post, but the immediate take-away is that the majority of treatments were approved based on only one or two trials. More than half of approvals were based on studies that included fewer than a thousand patients.

That probably has something to do with why the BMJ’s Clinical Evidence site has categorized only 35% of the more than 3,000 treatments they’ve reviewed as “beneficial” or “likely to be beneficial,” while half are of “unknown effectiveness.”

 

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2 Responses to What does it take to believe a treatment works?

  1. Pingback: Relative risk confusion, the FDA weighs in on tweets, and what’s the right care with a new, expensive drug? – Lown Institute

  2. Pingback: A “crisis” in evidence-based medicine (and a roadmap), conflicted surgeons, and a NICE update on Sovaldi: Right Care Weekly – Lown Institute

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