NAPLEX Question of the Week: Relative Risk Reduction

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NAPLEX Question of the Week: Relative Risk Reduction

In a recent study, rivaroxaban was compared to enoxaparin for VTE prophylaxis following hip arthroplasty. VTE occurred in 18 of the 1595 patients in the rivaroxaban group and 58 of the 1558 patients in the enoxaparin group. What is the relative risk reduction of using rivaroxaban over enoxaparin? Answer should be in a percent rounded to the nearest whole number.




To find the relative risk reduction, we first must find the relative risk.

Relative risk = (Event rate in rivaroxaban group)/(Event rate in enoxaparin group)

Relative risk = (18/1595) ÷ (58/1558) = 0.303

To find the relative risk reduction, subtract the relative risk from 1

Relative risk reduction = 1 – 0.303 = 0.697

0.697 X 100 = 69.7% so 70%

Relative risk reduction tells you how much the treatment reduces bad outcomes in comparison to the other treatment, in this case VTE. In this trial, rivaroxaban showed a 70% risk reduction for a VTE compared to enoxaparin. Relative risk reduction calculations can be somewhat misleading, especially in outcomes for which major event rates are very low. 

A different and sometimes more useful calculation would be an absolute risk reduction which would be the event rate subtracted in absolute numbers, or in this case the event rate of enoxaparin (3.7%) - event rate of rivaroxaban (1.1%)= 2.6%. A number needed to treat can be calculated from the absolute risk reduction which is 1/ARR (decimal number not %) which would be 1/0.026 or 38. This is a helpful calculation meaning that 38 patients would need to be given rivaroxaban to prevent one additional VTE in the hip arthroplasty population compared to enoxaparin. Number needed to treat when calculated should be reported in whole numbers. 

NAPLEX Competency Statement 4.8 is "Biostatistics, epidemiological, or pharmacoeconomic measures". 

Reference: Eriksson BI, Borris LC, Friedman RJ, Haas S, Huisman MV, Kakkar AK, Bandel TJ, Beckmann H, Muehlhofer E, Misselwitz F, Geerts W; RECORD1 Study Group. Rivaroxaban versus enoxaparin for thromboprophylaxis after hip arthroplasty. N Engl J Med. 2008 Jun 26;358(26):2765-75. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0800374. PMID: 18579811