The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-017-0457-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Despite the frequent use of self-controlled methods in pharmacoepidemiological studies, the factors that may bias the estimates from these methods have not been adequately compared in real-world settings. Here, we comparatively examined the impact of a time-varying confounder and its interactions with time-invariant confounders, time trends in exposures and events, restrictions, and misspecification of risk period durations on the estimators from three self-controlled methods. This study analyzed self-controlled case series (SCCS), case-crossover (CCO) design, and sequence symmetry analysis (SSA) using simulated and actual electronic medical records datasets.
We evaluated the performance of the three self-controlled methods in simulated cohorts for the following scenarios: 1) time-invariant confounding with interactions between the confounders, 2) time-invariant and time-varying confounding without interactions, 3) time-invariant and time-varying confounding with interactions among the confounders, 4) time trends in exposures and events, 5) restricted follow-up time based on event occurrence, and 6) patient restriction based on event history. The sensitivity of the estimators to misspecified risk period durations was also evaluated. As a case study, we applied these methods to evaluate the risk of macrolides on liver injury using electronic medical records.
In the simulation analysis, time-varying confounding produced bias in the SCCS and CCO design estimates, which aggravated in the presence of interactions between the time-invariant and time-varying confounders. The SCCS estimates were biased by time trends in both exposures and events. Erroneously short risk periods introduced bias to the CCO design estimate, whereas erroneously long risk periods introduced bias to the estimates of all three methods. Restricting the follow-up time led to severe bias in the SSA estimates. The SCCS estimates were sensitive to patient restriction. The case study showed that although macrolide use was significantly associated with increased liver injury occurrence in all methods, the value of the estimates varied.
The estimations of the three self-controlled methods depended on various underlying assumptions, and the violation of these assumptions may cause non-negligible bias in the resulting estimates. Pharmacoepidemiologists should select the appropriate self-controlled method based on how well the relevant key assumptions are satisfied with respect to the available data.
Additional file 1: Appendix A. Calculation of the null-effect sequence ratio. Appendix B. Equivalence between the crude sequence ratio and the incidence rate ratio estimator calculated using a stratified Cox model. Appendix C. SAS program codes of the simulation study. (DOCX 67 kb)12874_2017_457_MOESM1_ESM.docx
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- A comparison of estimators from self-controlled case series, case-crossover design, and sequence symmetry analysis for pharmacoepidemiological studies
- BioMed Central
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