• Personal view

# Balancing statistical and clinical significance in evaluating treatment effects

1. Epidemiology and Public Health, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
1. Dr W–C Leung, Health Policy and Practice, Elizabeth Fry Building, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UKWai_chingleung{at}hotmail.com
• Accepted 29 August 2000

To decide whether a new treatment should be used, statistical significance of its effectiveness over current treatment alone is insufficient. Measures of the size of the treatment effects (that is, clinical significance) are also necessary.1

Statistical significance measures how likely that any apparent differences in outcome between treatment and control groups are real and not due to chance. p Values and confidence intervals (CI) are the most commonly used measures of statistical significance. The p values give the probability that any particular outcome would have arisen by chance with the assumption that the new and the control treatments are equally effective as the null hypothesis. CI estimate the range within which the real results would fall if the trial is conducted many times. Hence, 95% CI of the difference in treatment outcomes between the two groups would indicate the range which the differences between the two treatments would fall on 95% of the occasions, if the trial is carried out many times.2

Clinical significance measures how large the differences in treatment effects are in clinical practice. Different measures have been devised. Relative risk is independent of the prevalence of the disease and can be applied to populations with different prevalence of the disease. Relative risk is the ratio of the risks in the treatment group to the event rate in the control group. However, patients may not consider this measure relevant to them as it does not specify the size of the absolute risk. The measures absolute risk reduction (ARR) and numbers needed to treat (NNT) vary with the prevalence of the disease. ARR is simply the difference in the absolute risks between the treatment group and the control group. NNT is the number of patients needed to treat to prevent one adverse event, and is numerically equal …

#### Responses

1. Submit a response
2. No responses published

#### Social bookmarking

Free sample
This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of PMJ.
View free sample issue >>

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.