About the Number Needed to Treat [NNT] Calculation and Medical Outcomes Website

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A “New” Clinical Numeric

By Professor Hope R. Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™

[Managing Editor]

Professor Hope Hetico

This new physician-led medical website  http://www.thennt.com/ seeks to explain to patients and physicians how well a particular treatment or medicine is likely to work based on a statistical model called the “Number Needed to Treat.”


This is not really a new calculation, as it has been know for many years. In fact, I review and teach it in several of my undergraduate, graduate and business school courses [healthcare administration, statistics, epidemiology, infection control, community health, etc], and have been doing so for a few years now. My students are always amazed by it.

Brief Definition

The NNT is “a measurement of the impact of a medicine or therapy by estimating the number of patients that need to be treated in order to have an impact on one person.”

Detailed Definition

According to wikipedia; the number needed to treat (NNT) is an epidemiological measure used in assessing the effectiveness of a health-care intervention, typically a treatment with medication. The NNT is the number of patients who need to be treated in order to prevent one additional bad outcome (i.e. the number of patients that need to be treated for one to benefit compared with a control in a clinical trial). It is defined as the inverse of the absolute risk reduction.

The NNT was first described in 1988. The ideal NNT is 1, where everyone improves with treatment and no-one improves with control. The higher the NNT, the less effective is the treatment. Variants are sometimes used for more specialized purposes.

One example is number needed to vaccinate. NNT values are time-specific. For example, if a study ran for 5 years and it was found that the NNT was 100 during this 5 year period, in one year the NNT would have to be multiplied by 5 to correctly assume the right NNT for only the one year period (in the example the one year NNT would be 500).

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_needed_to_treat

NNT Video

Take a quick look behind the numbers with this video presentation:



For more information:



And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Give em’ a click and tell us what you think http://www.thennt.com? Do you use the concept of NNT in your clinical medical practice; why or why not? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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3 Responses

  1. More on the NNT – Pragmatic Example
    [Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?]

    Clinical research suggests that, except among high-risk heart patients, the benefits of statins such as Lipitor may be overstated. But, this essay is really about math and the NNT.


    Hope Rachel Hetico RN MHA


  2. Walking Dead fans
    [check out our latest post: http://go.usa.gov/Q4J%5D

    There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example.


    That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.



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