Overblown on Paper

Results from randomized trials have a lot of sway in how global health resources are spent—but most of them report data in a way that is potentially misleading, according to a new Lancet Global Health article.
 
The authors found that over 80% of results from “cluster randomized trials” skirted international standards for data reporting, which recommend reporting both absolute and relative risk figures.
 
Take lottery tickets as an example: Buying 4 tickets instead of 1 quadruples the probability of winning, which might make it sound like buying multiple tickets is worthwhile—“until you consider the absolute chances of winning remain infinitesimally small,” Duke Global Health Institute reports.
 
The stakes are much higher in global health: Overstated trial results can warp the cost-benefit analysis of investing in a given intervention.
 
It’s unlikely study authors are doing this deliberately—but journal authors could do more to ensure authors are giving a complete picture of their findings, the authors note.

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