An approach to controlling for a large number of confounding variables is to summarise them in a single multivariable confounder score. Stratification by a multivariate confounder score (Am J Epidemiol 1976;104:609-20) shows how control for confounding may be based on stratification by the score. An example is a disease risk score (DRS) that estimates the probability or rate of disease occurrence conditional on being unexposed. The association between exposure and disease is then estimated with adjustment for the disease risk score in place of the individual covariates.
DRSs are however difficult to estimate if outcomes are rare. Use of disease risk scores in pharmacoepidemiologic studies (Stat Methods Med Res 2009;18:67-80) includes a detailed description of their construction and use, a summary of simulation studies comparing their performance to traditional models, a comparison of their utility with that of propensity scores, and some further topics for future research. Disease risk score as a confounder summary method: systematic review and recommendations (Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf 2013;22(2);122-29), examines trends in the use and application of DRS as a confounder summary method and shows large variation exists with differences in terminology and methods used.
In Role of disease risk scores in comparative effectiveness research with emerging therapies (Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2012 May;21 Suppl 2:138–47) it is argued that DRS may have its place when studying drugs that are recently introduced to the market. In such situations, as characteristics of users change rapidly, exposure propensity scores (see below) may prove highly unstable. DRSs based mostly on biological associations would be more stable. However, DRS models are still sensitive to misspecification as discussed in Adjusting for Confounding in Early Postlaunch Settings: Going Beyond Logistic Regression Models (Epidemiology. 2016;27:133-42).
|Annex 1.||Guidance on conducting systematic revies and meta-analyses of completed comparative pharmacoepidemiological studies of safety outcomes|