Methods for dealing with time-dependent confounding (Stat Med. 2013;32(9):1584-618) provides an overview of how time-dependent confounding can be handled in the analysis of a study. It provides an in-depth discussion of marginal structural models and g-computation.
G-estimation is a method for estimating the joint effects of time-varying treatments using ideas from instrumental variables methods. G-estimation of Causal Effects: Isolated Systolic Hypertension and Cardiovascular Death in the Framingham Heart Study (Am J Epidemiol 1998;148(4):390-401) demonstrates how the G-estimation procedure allows for appropriate adjustment of the effect of a time-varying exposure in the presence of time-dependent confounders that are themselves influenced by the exposure.
The use of Marginal Structural Models can be an alternative to G-estimation. Marginal Structural Models and Causal Inference in Epidemiology (Epidemiology 2000;11:550-60) introduces MSM, a class of causal models that allow for improved adjustment for confounding in situations of time-dependent confounding.
MSMs have two major advantages over G-estimation. Even if it is useful for survival time outcomes, continuous measured outcomes and Poisson count outcomes, logistic G-estimation cannot be conveniently used to estimate the effect of treatment on dichotomous outcomes unless the outcome is rare. The second major advantage of MSMs is that they resemble standard models, whereas G-estimation does not (see Marginal Structural Models to Estimate the Causal Effect of Zidovudine on the Survival of HIV-Positive Men. Epidemiology 2000;11:561–70).
Effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy on time to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or death using marginal structural models (Am J Epidemiol 2003;158:687-94) provides a clear example in which standard Cox analysis failed to detect a clinically meaningful net benefit of treatment because it does not appropriately adjust for time-dependent covariates that are simultaneously confounders and intermediate variables. This net benefit was shown using a marginal structural survival model. In Time-dependent propensity score and collider-stratification bias: an example of beta(2)-agonist use and the risk of coronary heart disease (Eur J Epidemiol 2013;28(4):291-9), various methods to control for time-dependent confounding are compared in an empirical study on the association between inhaled beta-2-agonists and the risk of coronary heart disease. MSMs resulted in slightly reduced associations compared to standard Cox-regression.
Beyond the approaches proposed above, traditional and efficient approaches to deal with time dependent variables should be considered in the design of the study, such as nested case control studies with assessment of time varying exposure windows.
|10. Specific topics|
|Annex 1.||Guidance on conducting systematic revies and meta-analyses of completed comparative pharmacoepidemiological studies of safety outcomes|