The first two numbers have no bearing on any data whatsoever: they are votes by government panelists about whether the data (data we have not seen yet) are "convincing". Then we have a theoretical, large number, 2,200, which could be the number of people subjected to "serious side effects" from use of Avandia. What constitutes "serious" in this case? No answer is given.
Next number? An even larger approxmation of the number of people in the U.S. that use Avandia: 1 million. Oh the horror. They must be dropping like flies. (Would someone tell me why the graphic says that there are 3 million prescriptions if only 1 million people actually use the drug?)
Next number? A bunch of studies that report on the next number, which seems huge: a 43% increase in risk of heart failure. But hang on a second, that's a relative number . . . if the percentage chance of heart failure was only 1% before, that means that your risk of heart failure on Avandia is only *gasp* 1.43% now. Oh no!
It's not until the last couple of paragraphs (if anyone could tolerate wading that deep into this overly-long and verbose article) that we have some hard actual numbers. 4100 new cases of diabetes a day. 810 deaths, 60% of those are from heart failure. Is this the before-Avandia or after-Avandia heart failure rate? (Diabetics are already more likely to experience heart failure than other people.) Since these are new, untreated cases, we can probably assume that this is the before-Avandia rate.
Okay, let's do some math here. 810 deaths divided by 4100 cases = .19 and some change: 19%. But hang on, we have a problem here . . . are these deaths within the total population of diabetes cases or deaths within the population of new diabetes cases?! THE ARTICLE DOES NOT MAKE THIS EXPLICIT. Let's assume that, every day, 810 people die from diabetes, period. Note that the article doesn't give an estimate for total diabetes cases in the U.S., either. Hmm. We can't use their graphic for an approximation, because we have that weird 1/3 ratio thing going with drug takers vs. prescriptions.
Lucky for me I know how to use Google, so I found this little number here. And we have some more numbers:
Diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2000. This ranking is based on the 69,301 death certificates in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death. Altogether, diabetes contributed to 213,062 deaths.
Let's do more math! 69,301 deaths divided by 365 is . . . 189 and some change. Where the heck did this 810 number come from?! Even if you take all the deaths in which diabetes is simply listed as a contributory factor, that's still only (213,062 divided by 365) 583 and some change. Granted, these were the numbers for 2000, and the CDC documentation says that diabetes is probably underreported as a cause or contributory cause of death. Okay. Let's assume that 810 deaths a day, out of a population of 18.2 million diabetes sufferers, is correct.
So, back to our earlier math: 810 divided by 18.2 million . . . no, wait, let's be fair. Let's do chance of death per year, and use the most generous number we have. So 213,062 divided by 18.2 million is: .01 and some change. That looks a lot like 1% to me . . . and remember that only 60% of that 1% is due to heart failure.
Result: my intial estimate of your increased risk of heart failure (1.43% vs 1%), which seemed AMAZINGLY LOW, was actually TOO HIGH.
And for this the government panelists are considering banning a drug that helps one million people control their diabetes?!