Are the top selling prescription drugs only effective for one in five patients?

The claim has a link to an actual peer reviewed article that supports it. It is pointless to ask a question that needs to be found by a Google search, when the answer can be found by clicking a link literally next to the claim. If one didn't have the patience to check the given sources, they won't certainly look here. Closing as non notable.

How do these facts lead to the conclusion that there are not many people that believe the claim (the test for notability on this site)?

How can we assume that the link/source given in the claim is actually the best evidence? What if there is other, contradictory, or better evidence?

2 Answers 2


My reasoning behind the vote to close is the following.

There is a Nature article, which makes a nebulous statement with an evident link for more information.

The top 10 prescription drugs in sales have a cumulative clinical response rate of less than 20%

Note that both I and the author agree that it's not clear what is meant by "cumulative clinical response".

The link goes to another article with a much clearer explanation of what is meant. The original claim is better specified there.

The top ten highest-grossing drugs in the United States help between 1 in 25 and 1 in 4 of the people who take them

The article also contains a list of the drugs in question.

What is the actual claim which the OP meant to ask about?

  1. If it's the first and not the second, then the question is non notable, because it's about a specific bit of wording, not about the more precise claim on specific effectivenesses.

  2. If it's both, then the question needs major editing and rewording. However the OP seemed to mind even a one-word edit, therefore I am not going to touch it.

No matter what the OP meant, however, the version of the question which I closed appeared to be referring to the first claim, as in 1., which is why I voted as such.

While the linked article might not be the best evidence on the medical statistics, it is certainly the best evidence on what claim in the article meant. If someone wants to know more, they only need to follow that link, answering that here has no value.

I'd be quite happy to reopen, as always, if the question was properly fixed, not about confusing wordings but about facts.

  • Okay could you please change to "unclear what you're asking"? That would avoid muddying the notability standard.
    – user30557
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 15:36
  • 1
    If there are no reopen votes, I'll do it.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 15:37

The problem with the way this question has been dealt with is that it it feels as though the moderator has reached a snap judgment (which isn't consistent with the way questions are usually judged here) and has then defended his initial decision on the basis of other (not particularly strong) grounds.

There is clearly a notable claim and it came from a prestigious place, the BMJ. That should be enough for notability. But the moderator decided that the question could be effectively answered by clicking on a link in the referenced article. It seems to me that, had the question been in an unreferenced newspaper article, it would suddenly be notable by that standard which is bizarre. The question should only fail notability if it were entirely trivial whereas it is actually a highly controversial subject in medical science (the moderator may not know that and he certainly should not assume that it is trivial just because there is a reference in the source).

The reason for closure was later changed from notability to lack of clarity. The problem here is that the right place for this is in answers not in the question itself. There is a clearly referenced claim. There is no ambiguity in asking whether that claim is a good summary of scientific knowledge. And this is a common format for questions here. The moderator poses two straw men to retain his decision to close: one that the intent is simply to ask whether the claim fairly represents the linked article (which would make it trivial); the other that the question should have gone into much more detail about why there was any skepticism about the claim (but we don't usually demand that). But while the quoted wording may be ambiguous or require some extra explanation so do most other claims here: the question does not in any way obfuscate the quoted statement. The moderator appears to be asking that the OP does most of the work in clarifying the nature of the answer. Again, we don't usually impose any such rule on claims from newspaper headlines which mangle or distort some scientific fact: we assume that an answer will untangle the misrepresentation.

This has been a frustrating experience of moderation. The moderator changed the basis for objecting to the question. Both bases appeared arbitrary by the normal standards used on the site for either notability or clarity. And the only way to respond to the demands would be to answer the question in the question itself, which doesn't seem the right thing in this format. And the moderator's comments look like justifications for the initial decision and not in any way helpful in improving the question.

My view is that where there is a clearly referenced quote from a notable source, the claim should be notable. If the quote is ambiguous (as many are) then the answer not the question should be expected to clarify the issue and the evidence unless the way the rest of the question is written causes extra obfuscation around the quote.

  • Your original version and the Nature article differ, which is why I voted to close your question as non-notable. Further edits made the question more coherent, but it's still unclear what the question is about, which is why I changed my vote to "unclear".
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 15:42
  • Can you help me clarify it? Is the question about (a) the non-notable claim that the top 10 drugs are effective at 20%? (b) whether the 20% cumulative number can be obtained by the linked resource? (c) whether the numbers in the linked resource are valid? (a) is what you asked, (b) is what the edit sort-of moved the question towards, (c) seems to actually answer the underlying question.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 15:42
  • @Sklivvz I will make some further attempts to clarify. I still think the quote constitutes a notable claim; the problem with it is that it carries several possible interpretations. It might mean we are being ripped off by an industry selling us ineffective products, or, it could mean that some drugs have to be given to any people to see any benefits. Addressing which of those is true and explaining whether the broader evidence supports the 20% number would make a good answer. I take the quote as a good proxy for that leads to this analysis.
    – matt_black
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 16:09
  • And I'm not interested in the genuinely insignificant issues about whether the short quote is an accurate summary of the chain of references. Most quoted claims here simplify bigger, more significant questions: we should focus on the underlying scientific debate implied by the quoted claim, which the single referenced source from which the quote is derived doesn't capture. I asked the question because the science of that debate isn't clear not because I doubted that the quote was an inaccurate representation of the linked source.
    – matt_black
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 16:15
  • I understand, OK. So if (a) is a notable claim, can you provide a different example of it? That would get your question reopened straight away. Maybe it's just that you've chosen the wrong example by citing Nature. We use "publication in a highly distributed newspaper" as a proxy for notability, but the bottom line is that we want stuff that a lot of people believe and the onus is on the asker to convince us that the question is about a genuine claim.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 18:23

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