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Submission Type

Model/Framework

Keywords

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER), Methods, Electronic Medical Record (EMR), Evidence Based Medicine

Abstract

Introduction: Because a comparison of non-initiators and initiators of treatment may be hopelessly confounded, guidelines for the conduct of observational research often recommend using an “active” comparator group consisting of people who initiate a treatment other than the medication of interest. In this paper, we discuss the conditions under which this approach is valid if the goal is to emulate a trial with an inactive comparator.

Identification of Effects: We provide conditions under which a target trial in a subpopulation can be validly emulated from observational data, using an active comparator that is known or believed to be inactive for the outcome of interest. The average treatment effect in the population as a whole is not identified, but under certain conditions this approach can be used to emulate a trial either in the subset of individuals who were treated with the treatment of interest, in the subset of individuals who were treated with the treatment of interest but not with the comparator, or in the subset of individuals who were treated with both the treatment of interest and the active comparator.

The Plausibility of the Comparability Conditions: We discuss whether the required conditions can be expected to hold in pharmacoepidemiologic research, with a particular focus on whether the conditions are plausible in situations where the standard analysis fails due to unmeasured confounding by access to health care or health seeking behaviors.

Discussion: The conditions discussed in this paper may at best be approximately true. Investigators using active comparator designs to emulate trials with inactive comparators should exercise caution.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

DOI

10.13063/2327-9214.1234

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