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Treatments: risk-benefit profile

All too often when we look at treatments we only focus on the benefits. This is generally the case with reports of new treatments that show particular drugs or devices can improve long term conditions or even in some cases cure them. But, what about the risk that comes with it?

When considering a treatment, it’s important to understand and consider potential risk as well as benefit. Any medicine or device whether prescribed or more freely available can have risks: the chances that something unwanted or unexpected, an adverse event or side effect, could happen as a result of the treatment. A side effect could be a minor nuisance or a serious event. Sometimes a side effect is unavoidable to achieve a treatment’s benefits so understanding and managing risk is an important part of a long-term treatment plan.

When considering treatments, important questions include:

  • How severe is the condition for which treatment is being sought? What effect is it having?
  • What is the possible benefit from the treatment?
  • How much benefit can reasonably be expected?
  • What possible side effects might there be from the treatment?
  • What can be done to reduce the chances of side effects?


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This article is from the free online course:

Making Sense of Evidence: The Informed Health Consumer

Cardiff University

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