Marginal Structural Models to Estimate the Causal
Effect of Zidovudine on the Survival of HIV-Positive
Angel Herna´n,1 Babette Brumback,2 and James M. Robins1,2 Standard methods for survival analysis, such as the time- zidovudine on survival and is affected by past zidovudine dependent Cox model, may produce biased effect estimates treatment. The crude mortality rate ratio (95% confidence when there exist time-dependent confounders that are them- interval) for zidovudine was 3.6 (3.0 – 4.3), which reflects the selves affected by previous treatment or exposure. Marginal presence of confounding. After controlling for baseline CD4 structural models are a new class of causal models the param- count and other baseline covariates using standard methods, eters of which are estimated through inverse-probability-of- the mortality rate ratio decreased to 2.3 (1.9 –2.8). Using a treatment weighting; these models allow for appropriate ad- marginal structural Cox model to control further for time- justment for confounding. We describe the marginal structural dependent confounding due to CD4 count and other time- Cox proportional hazards model and use it to estimate the dependent covariates, the mortality rate ratio was 0.7 (95% causal effect of zidovudine on the survival of human immuno- conservative confidence interval ϭ 0.6 –1.0). We compare deficiency virus-positive men participating in the Multicenter marginal structural models with previously proposed causal AIDS Cohort Study. In this study, CD4 lymphocyte count is methods. (Epidemiology 2000;11:561–570) both a time-dependent confounder of the causal effect of Keywords: counterfactuals, causality, epidemiologic methods, longitudinal data, survival analysis, structural models, confound-
ing, intermediate variables, AIDS.

Marginal structural models (MSMs) can be used to es- virus (HIV)-positive men enrolled in an observational timate the causal effect of a time-dependent exposure in cohort study, the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study the presence of time-dependent confounders that are (MACS). We conclude by comparing methods based on themselves affected by previous treatment.1,2 The use of MSMs with previously proposed methods based on g- MSMs can be an alternative to g-estimation of structural estimation of SNMs and on the direct estimation of the In our companion paper we describe inverse-probabil- We now begin by describing the MACS and then ity-of-treatment weighted (IPTW) estimation of a mar- summarize why standard methods for survival analysis ginal structural logistic model.4 In this paper, we intro- are not appropriate for estimating the effect of zidovu- duce the marginal structural Cox proportional hazards model, show how to estimate its parameters by inverse-probability-of-treatment weighting, provide practical ad-vice on how to use standard statistical software to obtain The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study and Bias
the IPTW estimates, and include, as an appendix, the of Standard Methods
SAS code necessary for the analysis. We use this Cox Between 1984 and 1991, the MACS enrolled 5,622 proportional hazards MSM to estimate the effect of homosexual and bisexual men, with no prior acquired zidovudine on the survival of human immunodeficiency immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-defining illness,from the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Baltimore-Washington, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Study partici-pants were asked to return every 6 months to complete From the Departments of 1Epidemiology and 2Biostatistics, Harvard School ofPublic Health, Boston, MA.
a questionnaire, undergo physical examination, and pro-vide blood samples. The design and methods of the Address correspondence to: Miguel Herna´n, Department of Epidemiology, Har- MACS have been described in detail elsewhere.5,6 vard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.
We restricted our cohort to HIV-positive men alive in This research was supported by NIH grant R01-A132475.
the period during which zidovudine was available for use(that is, after study visit 5; March 1986 through March Submitted March 13, 1999; final version accepted February 28, 2000.
1987). Follow-up ended at study visit 21, October 1994, Copyright 2000 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
death, or 24 months after the last visit, whichever came Epidemiology
first. Our analysis included the 2,178 men who attended or herpes zoster. We assume, for simplicity, that patients at least one visit between visits 5 and 21 while HIV remain on therapy once they start it and that the hazard positive, and who did not have an AIDS-defining illness of death at time t depends on a subject’s zidovudine and were not on antiretroviral therapy at the first eligi- history only through its current value, but alternative ble visit. By the end of the follow-up (median dura- specifications are possible. Suppose, for the moment, no tion-69 months), 1,296 men had initiated zidovudine censoring occurs, that is, death times T are observed for The usual approach to the estimation of the effect of In the presence of time-dependent covariates L(t) a time-varying exposure, such as zidovudine, on survival satisfying the conditions 1 and 2, the estimate ␥ˆ ob- is to model the hazard of failure at a given time as a tained by maximizing the Cox partial likelihood is an function of past exposure history using a time-dependent (asymptotically) unbiased estimate of the association Cox proportional hazards model. Robins7 has shown this parameter ␥ . However, it is a biased estimate of the approach may be biased, whether or not one further causal effect of zidovudine on mortality, even if we had adjusts for past covariate history, whenever (1) there included the time-dependent covariates L(t) as regres- exists a time-dependent covariate that is both a risk factor for mortality and also predicts subsequent expo- Arguing as in our companion paper,4 we can eliminate sure and (2) past exposure history predicts the risk fac- or reduce this bias by fitting the above time-dependent tor. Covariates satisfying condition 1 are called time- Cox model with the contribution of a subject i to a dependent confounders. Past CD4 count is a time- risk-set calculation performed at time t weighted by the dependent confounder for the effect of zidovudine on survival, because it is a risk factor for mortality and a predictor of subsequent initiation of zidovudine thera- py,6 and past zidovudine history is an independent pre- int͑t͒ pr͑ A͑k͒ ϭ a ͑k͉͒A៮͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ a៮ ͑k Ϫ 1͒, V ϭ v ͒ dictor of subsequent CD4 count.8 In fact, all standard methods (for example, Cox or Poisson regression) that pr͑ A͑k͒ ϭ a ͑k͉͒A៮͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ predict the mortality rate at each time using a summary ៮ ͑k͒ ϭ li k͒) of zidovudine history up to that time may produce biasedestimates of the causal effect of zidovudine whether or to obtain an IPTW partial likelihood estimate. In the not one adjusts for past CD4 count in the analysis.
៮ ( Ϫ 1) is defined to be 0. Here, int(t) is the largest integer less than or equal to t and k is an integer- Marginal Structural Cox Proportional Hazards
valued variable denoting whole months since start of fol- low-up. Because a subject’s recorded treatment changesat most one per month, each factor in the denominator In the absence of time-dependent confounding, a time- of sw (t) is, informally, the probability that the subject dependent Cox proportional hazards model is typically received his own observed treatment at month k, given used. We treat visit 5, or the earliest subsequent visit at his past treatment and prognostic factor history [V is which a man was HIV positive, as start of follow-up time included in L(0)]. Each factor in the numerator is, in- for our analysis. We define T to be a subject’s time of formally, the probability that the subject received his death with time measured in months since start of fol- observed treatment conditional on his past treatment low-up, and A(t) to be 1 if a subject was on zidovudine history and baseline covariates, but not further adjusting at time t. We use overbars to represent a covariate for his past time-dependent prognostic factor history.
៮ (t) ϭ {A(u); 0 Յ u Ͻ t} is “Nonstabilized” weights w (t), in which the numerator of a subject’s treatment history up to t. Finally, let V be a sw (t) is replaced by 1, can be used in lieu of sw (t).
vector of time-independent baseline covariates mea- Although this choice will not influence the consistency sured before start of follow-up. Then the conditional of our causal estimates, the stabilized weights sw (t) are hazard of death (that is, mortality rate) ␭ (t͉A៮(t), V) preferred because they generally yield 95% confidence ៮ (t) and baseline covariates V is intervals that not only are narrower (that is, more effi- cient) but also have actual coverages rates that are closer to 95%. In a latter section, we describe how these ៮ ͑t͒, V͒ ϭ ␭0 t͒exp͑␥1A͑t͒ ϩ ␥2V͒.
stabilized inverse-probability-of-treatment weights sw (t) The subscript T in ␭ (t͉A៮(t), V) merely identifies this hazard function as being that corresponding to the vari- Suppose all relevant time-dependent confounders are able T. In our analysis, the covariates in V are age, measured and included in L(t). Then, weighting by calendar year, CD4 count, CD8 count, white blood cell sw (t) effectively creates, for a risk set at time t, a pseu- count (WBC), red blood cell count (RBC), platelets, dopopulation in which (1) L៮(t) no longer predicts ini- and presence of symptoms. Symptomatic status was de- tiation of zidovudine at t (that is, L៮(t) is not a confound- fined by previous presence of one or more of the follow- er), and (2) the causal association between zidovudine ing clinical symptoms or signs: fever (temperature and mortality is the same as in the original study popu- Ͼ37.9°C) for Ն2 weeks, oral candidiasis, diarrhea for lation.1 As argued in Ref 4, this implies that an IPTW Ն2 weeks, weight loss of Ն4.5 kg, oral hairy leukoplakia, estimator, say ␤ˆ , of the parameter ␥ of our time- Epidemiology
dependent Cox model will converge to a quantity ␤ subject was alive in month t and 1 if the subject died in that can be appropriately interpreted as the causal effect, month t, and ␤ (t) is a time-specific (that is, month- on the log rate ratio scale, of zidovudine on mortality.
specific) intercept. This method has the advantage of To formalize the above, we introduce counterfactual being easily programmed in many standard statistical outcomes.4 For each possible treatment history a៮ ϭ packages. In the unweighted case, it is essentially equiv- {a(t); 0 Յ t Ͻ ϱ}, let T alent to fitting an unweighted time-dependent Cox representing the subject’s time to death had he followed, model, because the hazard in any single month is small.9 possibly contrary to fact, the zidovudine history a៮ from However, the use of weights induces within-subject cor- the start of follow-up, rather than his observed history.
relation, which invalidates the standard error estimates outputted by a standard logistic program (they can be ៮ such that a(t) ϭ 0 for t Ͻ 2.5 and a(t) ϭ 1 for t Ն 2.5 is the subject’s survival time either too large or too small). To overcome this diffi- when he started zidovudine therapy 2.5 months after the culty, the above weighted logistic model should be fit start of follow-up. We only observe T using a generalized estimating equations10 program (for ment histories a៮ that agree with the subject’s observed example, option “repeated” in SAS Proc Genmod) that treatment history until the subject’s observed death time outputs “robust” variance estimators that allow for cor- related observations. The robust variance estimator pro- a៮ equals T. For each a the marginal structural Cox proportional hazards model vides a conservative confidence interval for the ␤. Thatis, under our assumptions, the 95% confidence interval t͉V͒ ϭ ␭ t͒exp͑␤ calculated as ␤ˆ Ϯ 1.96 ϫ robust standard error is guar-anteed to cover the true ␤ at least 95% of the time in where ␭ (t͉V) is the hazard of death at t among subjects with baseline covariates V in the source population had,contrary to fact, all subjects followed zidovudine history Censoring
a៮ through time t, the scalar ␤ and the row vector ␤ are The analysis just described assumes that there is no unknown parameters, and ␭ (t) is an unspecified base- dropout or censoring by end of follow-up. We define the line hazard. We refer to this model as an MSM because, censoring indicator C(t) to be 1 if a subject is right- within levels of V, it is a structural (that is, causal) model censored by time t and C(t) ϭ 0 otherwise, where a for the marginal distribution of the counterfactual vari- subject is right-censored if he either dropped out of the study or reached the administrative end of follow-up The parameter ␤ of our MSM is the causal log rate alive. To estimate ␤ in the presence of censoring, we fit ratio for zidovudine. Hence, exp(␤ ) has a causal inter- a weighted Cox model in which, for a subject at risk at pretation as the ratio of the mortality (hazard) rate at month t, we use the weight sw (t) ϫ sw† (t), where any time t had all subjects been continuously exposed to zidovudine compared with the hazard rate at time t had all subjects remained unexposed. ␤ is consistently esti- mated by our IPTW estimator ␤ , under the untestable pr͓C͑k͒ ϭ 0͉C៮͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ assumption of no unmeasured confounders given the ͹t 0, A៮͑kϪ1͒ϭa៮͑ikϪ1͒, Vϭvi] measured risk factors in L(t).1 We shall make this as- sumption with L(t) being the covariate vector with the pr͓C͑k͒ ϭ 0͉C៮͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ 0, A៮͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ following elements: the most recent recorded CD4, ៮ ͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ li k Ϫ 1͒] CD8, WBC, RBC, platelets, presence of an AIDS-de- ៮ ( Ϫ 1) and A៮( Ϫ 1) are defined to be 0. sw†(t) is, fining illness, and symptomatic status before t.
informally, the ratio of a subject’s probability of remain- It is difficult to get standard Cox model software to ing uncensored up to month t, calculated as if there had compute our IPTW estimator ␤ˆ because our subject- been no time-dependent determinants of censoring ex- specific weights sw (t) vary over time, and most standard cept past zidovudine history, divided by the subject’s Cox model software programs, even those that allow for conditional probability of remaining uncensored up to subject-specific weights, do not allow for subject-specific month t. The denominator of the product sw (t) ϫ sw† time-varying weights. The approach we shall adopt to (t) is, informally, the probability that a subject had had overcome this software problem is to fit a weighted his observed zidovudine and censoring history through pooled logistic regression treating each person-month as month t. Because sw (t) and sw† (t) are unknown, they an observation. (In the MACS, our 2,178 men contrib- must be estimated from the data as described below.
ute 143,194 person-months of observation.) That is, we Weighting by sw (t) ϫ sw† (t) produces a consistent will fit, by weighted logistic regression using weights estimate of the causal parameter ␤ under the assump- tion that the measured covariates are sufficient to adjust logit pr͓D͑t͒ ϭ 1͉D͑t Ϫ 1͒ ϭ 0, A៮͑t Ϫ 1͒, V͔ ϭ for both confounding and selection bias due to loss tofollow-up.4 0 t͒ ϩ ␤1A͑t Ϫ 1͒ ϩ ␤2V Estimation of the Weights
where, henceforth t, like k, is integer valued denoting The practical problem faced by the investigator is how whole months since start of follow-up, D(t) ϭ 0 if a to obtain the quantities sw (t) ϫ sw† (t) necessary to run Epidemiology
the pooled weighted logistic regression model. Consider Inverse-Probability-of-Treatment
first the estimation of sw (t). We need to estimate con- Estimates of the Parameters of a Marginal Structural Model
sistently the denominator and numerator of sw (t) for for the Causal Effect of Zidovudine on Mortality in the
each subject and time point. Because any subject starting Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study
zidovudine was assumed to remain on it thereafter, we can regard the time to starting zidovudine as a failure time variable and model the probability of starting zidovudine through a pooled logistic model that treats each person-month as an observation and allows for a time-dependent intercept. Specifically, we can, for ex- ample, fit the model logit pr [A(k) ϭ 0͉A៮(k Ϫ 1) ϭ 0, L៮(k)] ϭ ␣ (k) ϩ ␣ L(k) ϩ ␣ V and obtain estimates ␣ˆ ϭ (␣ˆ (k), ␣ˆ , ␣ˆ ) for the unknown parame- ters. It is only necessary to fit the model for subjects alive and uncensored in month k who had yet to begin zidovu- dine (that is, the 85,116 person-months in the MACS The estimated predicted values (k) (␣ˆ (k) ϩ ␣ˆ L (k) ϩ ␣ˆ V ) from this model are the estimated probabilities of subject i not starting zidovu- dine in month k given that zidovudine had not been started by month k Ϫ 1, where expit(x) ϭ ex/(1 ϩ ex). Our estimate of the denominator of sw (k) for person i in month k is the product pˆi(ku ϭ 0 i(u) if subject i did pˆ u͒ if subject i started zidovudine at month t for t Յ k. [Note that, in calculating ˆp (k), we have used our assumption that no subject stops zidovu- dine once begun.] Similarly, we estimate the numerator of sw (k) by fitting the above logistic model except with the covariates L(k) removed from the model.
* Weighted logistic model including the covariates listed in the table plus a There is a small but important technical detail we time-varying intercept (not shown). Weights were estimated by sw ˆ i(t) ϫ swˆi (t) have yet to discuss. For our IPTW estimates of ␤ to be Inverse-Probability-of-Treatment
consistent, it is necessary that the denominator of sw (t) Estimates of the Causal Effect of Zidovudine Therapy on
Mortality in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study
be consistently estimated. To do so, we cannot estimatea separate intercept ␣ (k) for each month k. Rather, we need to “borrow strength” from subjects starting zidovu-dine in months other than k to estimate be accomplished by assuming that ␣ (k) is constant in windows of, say, 3 months. An alternative approach is to ␣ (k) are a smooth function of k and thus can be estimated by smoothing techniques (such as regres-sion splines, smoothing splines, or kernel regression).11 To correct for censoring, we estimate sw†(k) in a manner analogous to the estimation of sw (k) except RR ϭ mortality rate ratio (zidovudine users vs nonusers); CI ϭ confidence with A(k) replaced by C(k) as the outcome variable, interval.
* Noncausal models, shown for comparison purposes only. The unadjusted model with A(k Ϫ 1) added as an additional regressor, and not includes only the time-varying intercept and zidovudine use (yes or no). The ៮ (k Ϫ 1) ϭ 0 but rather on C៮(k Ϫ model with baseline covariates includes also: age, calendar year (1985, 1986,1987– 89, or 1990 –1993), CD4 (Ͻ200, 200 – 499, or Ն500/␮l), CD8 (Ͻ500; 500 –999; or Ն1,000 per ␮l), WBC (Ͻ3,000; 3,000 – 4,999; or Ն5,000 per ␮l),RBC (Ͻ35, 35– 44, or Ն45 ϫ 105 per ␮l), platelets (Ͻ150, 150 –249, or Ն250 ϫ103 per ␮l), presence of symptoms (yes if fever, oral candidiasis, diarrhea, weight Causal Effect of Zidovudine in the Multicenter
loss, oral hairy leukoplakia, or herpes zoster, or no if otherwise).
AIDS Cohort Study
† Weights calculated as described in the text using data on baseline covariatesplus most recent CD4, CD8, WBC, RBC (Ͻ30, 30 –39, or Ն40 ϫ 105 per ␮l), Using a standard Cox proportional hazards model— or platelets, presence of symptoms, presence of AIDS-defining illness, and previous the equivalent pooled logistic regression model—with no covariates, the crude mortality rate ratio for zidovu- ‡ The model-based intervals are not valid for weighted models because they failto account for the within-subject covariances induced by weighting.
dine was 3.6 (95% confidence interval-3.0 – 4.3). The Epidemiology
Estimated Probability of Having One’s Own Observed Treatment History [Estimated Denominator of sw (t)] and
Censoring History [Estimated Denominator of sw† (t)] at 24 and 84 Months of Follow-Up, Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study
Probability of having observedzidovudine history Probability of having observedzidovudine history SD ϭ standard deviation, IQR ϭ interquartile range.
* Age (years), calendar year (1985, 1986, 1987–1989, or 1990 –1993), CD4 (Ͻ200, 200 – 499, or Ն500 per ␮l), CD8 (Ͻ500; 500 –999; Ն1,000 per ␮l), WBC (Ͻ3,000;3,000 – 4,999; or Ն5,000 per ␮l), RBC (Ͻ35, 35– 44, or Ն45 ϫ 105 per ␮l), platelets (Ͻ150, 150 –249, or Ն250 ϫ 103/␮l), presence of symptoms (yes if fever, oralcandidiasis, diarrhea, weight loss, oral hairy leukoplakia, or herpes zoster, or no otherwise), and previous zidovudine use.
† Baseline covariates plus most recent CD4, CD8, WBC, RBC (Ͻ35, 35– 44, Ն45 ϫ 105 per ␮l), platelets, presence of symptoms, or presence of an AIDS-definingillness.
addition of the baseline covariates V to the model de- The estimated probabilities of having one’s own ob- creased this rate ratio to 2.3 (1.9 –2.8).
served zidovudine history at 24 months of follow-up, To adjust further for confounding due to the time- given time-varying covariates, range from 0.939 to dependent factors L(t), we estimated the parameters of 0.002. This would be translated into (nonstabilized) our marginal structural Cox model by calculating a sta- inverse-probability-of-treatment weights w bilized weight sw (t) ϫ sw† (t) for each person-month from 1.06 (1/0.939) to 500 (1/0.002). Thus, in the and fitting a weighted pooled logistic model. The esti- pseudopopulation, some observations would be repre- mated causal mortality rate ratio exp(␤ ) was 0.7 (95% sented by 1.06 copies of themselves, whereas others conservative confidence interval-0.6 –1.0), indicating would be represented by 500 copies. The use of stabilized that, under our assumptions, zidovudine therapy appears inverse-probability-of-treatment weights sw to decrease the risk of death. When nonstabilized izes” or stabilizes the range of these inverse probabilities ˆ (t) ϫ †(t) were used, the rate ratio was and increases the efficiency of the analysis by preventing virtually identical but the 95% conservative confidence just a few people from contributing most of the obser- interval was 30% wider, compared with the stabilized vations in the pseudopopulation. Thus, the values sw results (Table 1). We also report the invalid model- for t ϭ 24 are centered around 1.01 and show a nar- based intervals obtained using an ordinary weighted logistic regression program that does not account for The estimated probabilities of being uncensored at 24 within-subject correlations. The point estimates and months follow a more peaked distribution, tightly cen- 95% conservative confidence intervals for each of the tered around values close to 1 (0.96). This is expected, as parameters of our marginal structural Cox model are 95% of the men were uncensored at 24 months of The stabilized weights were calculated by means of follow-up. Inverse probabilities w four pooled logistic regression models, as described in the (1/0.997) to 5.03 (1/0.199). The stabilized weights previous section. In two of the models the outcome was ˆ (t), for t ϭ 24, are centered around 1 and range from “initiation of zidovudine.” Using the estimated predicted 0.93 to 1.23. The estimated probabilities of being un- values from each of these models, we calculated two censored at 84 months are lower, as expected.
quantities for each observation: the probability of each The distribution of the final weights, which combine person having his own observed zidovudine history up to information on zidovudine and censoring history, is pre- month t given baseline covariates V, and, then, given sented in Figures 1 and 2 for several follow-up times (a also time-varying covariates L(t). Similar models were fit logarithmic transformation was applied for display pur- for the outcome “censoring,” after adding zidovudine poses only). Two sets of weights were estimated: the history as a time-varying dichotomous variable indicat- ˆ (t) ϫ swˆ† (t) and the nonstabilized ing whether the subject had started zidovudine by ˆ (t) ϫ † (t). The distribution of stabilized weights is symmetric and centered around 1 at all times, Table 3 shows the center and dispersion parameters of whereas its variance increases over time. The distribu- the distribution of the four estimated probabilities at two tion of the nonstabilized weights is skewed, and its arbitrary time points: 24 and 84 months of follow-up.
variance greatly exceeds that of the stabilized weights.
ion paper,4 because the covariates in L(t) are affected byearlier treatment, the zidovudine coefficient cannot becausally interpreted as either the overall zidovudine ef-fect or the direct effect of zidovudine mediated by path-ways not through the covariates L(t). In contrast, underour assumption of no unmeasured confounders, the co-efficient of zidovudine in our marginal structural Coxmodel represents the overall effect of zidovudine.
More specifically, if we had included in the above covariate-adjusted time-dependent Cox model both aterm for current zidovudine exposure [that is, A(t)] andseveral terms for past zidovudine exposure {for example, FIGURE 1.
Distribution of stabilized weights SW. The
cumulative months on treatment before t [cum(t)], and box for each group shows the location of the mean (*),
the indicator A(t Ϫ 6) of whether a subject was on median (middle horizontal bar) and quartiles (border hori-
treatment 6 months previously}, then, in the absence of zontal bars). Vertical lines extend to the most extreme ob-
unmeasured confounders and model misspecification, servations which are no more than 1.5 ؋ IQR beyond the
the coefficient of A(t) would have a causal interpreta- quartiles. Observations beyond the vertical lines are plotted
individually, if they lie within the limits of the frame.

tion but the coefficients cum(t) and A(t Ϫ 6) wouldnot, because only current zidovudine does not affectL(t). The coefficient of A(t) would represent the effecton a log rate ratio scale of recent zidovudine on mortalityin month t within strata defined by zidovudine andcovariate history up to t and would generally differ fromthe coefficient ␤ of A(t) in our MSM, as the coefficients in the two models represent different causal contrasts.
[Indeed, it can be shown that if our MSM is correct and ␤ is nonzero, the causal rate ratio for current zidovudine in the covariate and past treatment-adjusted time-de-pendent Cox model will not be constant over stratadefined by past treatment and covariate history. Hence,we would need to include interaction terms between FIGURE 2.
Distribution of nonstabilized weights SW.
A(t) and the variables L(t), A(t Ϫ 6), and cum(t) in our The box for each group shows the location of the mean (*),
covariate and past treatment-adjusted time-dependent median (middle horizontal bar) and quartiles (border hori-
Cox model to avoid model misspecification.] However, zontal bars). Vertical lines extend to the most extreme ob-
as mentioned above, the coefficient (estimated to be servations which are no more than 1.5 ؋ IQR beyond the
0.4) of A(t) in the covariate-adjusted time-dependent quartiles. Observations beyond the vertical lines are plotted
Cox model that does not include terms for past zidovu- individually, if they lie within the limits of the frame.
dine exposure does not have a causal interpretation,because past treatment is a confounder for current treat-ment and thus must be adjusted for. This is true even The weight estimates were robust with respect to the under the null hypothesis of no direct, indirect, or over- method used to estimate the time-dependent baseline all effect of zidovudine on mortality whenever, as will be logit ␣ (k) in the logistic models for zidovudine and essentially always the case, a component of L(t), say censoring, provided that sufficient flexibility was al- RBC, and mortality in month t have an unmeasured lowed. The weights in Figures 1 and 2 were obtained by common cause (for example, the baseline number of modeling the time-dependent intercept ␣ (k) with nat- bone marrow stem cells); adjusting for a variable L(t) ural cubic splines with five knots (on months 23, 44, 71, affected by past zidovudine makes past zidovudine a 94, and 100, which correspond to the percentiles 5, 27.5, noncausal independent (protective) risk factor for mor- tality within strata of L(t) and A(t), and thus, to estimatethe effect of recent zidovudine exposure, past zidovudine Adjusting for Time-Dependent Confounders in
must be controlled as a confounder in the analysis.
a Cox Model
We also fit a standard (unweighted) time-dependent
Cox model in which we included, at each month t, the
Comparison of Marginal Structural Models with
current value L(t) of the time-dependent covariates, the Previously Proposed Methods
baseline covariates V, and the treatment A(t). We ob- Before introducing MSMs, Robins and co-workers intro- tained a point estimate of 0.4 (95% confidence interval- duced three methods for estimation of the causal effect 0.3– 0.5) for the zidovudine coefficient, which was con- of a time-varying treatment in the presence of time- siderably less than our stabilized IPTW estimate of 0.7.
varying confounders: the parametric g-computation al- Nevertheless, as discussed in section 7.1 of our compan- gorithm formula estimator,12,13 g-estimation of structural Epidemiology
nested models,12,14,15 and the iterative conditional expec- (say k ϭ 0, 1, 2), but for large k we require strong tations (ICE) estimator.3,12 IPTW estimation of MSMs modeling assumptions, as there are many variables in constitutes a fourth method. When (1) both treatment l៮(k) ϭ (l(0), l(1), . . . , l(k)) and in a៮(k Ϫ 1). It is and the confounders are discrete variables, (2) they are unlikely that these modeling assumptions would be pre- measured at only a few time points, and (3) the study size cisely correct. Furthermore, even when these modeling is large, then estimation can be carried out using fully assumptions are correct, if the distribution of the stabi- saturated models (that is, nonparametrically), and all lized weights is highly variable and skewed as a result of four methods are precisely equivalent. They differ when, very strong covariate-treatment associations, 95% con- owing to sparse multivariate data, one must introduce fidence intervals based on IPTW estimation of an MSM will be very wide and may fail to cover the true param- ICE estimators can only rarely be used, because they eter at least 95% of the time, unless the sample size is often lead to logically incompatible models and will not be discussed further.12 Of the remaining three methods, The use of g-estimation of SNMs overcomes the inference based on SNMs and MSMs is preferable to above difficulties. For example, one can use SNMs to that based on the parametric g-computation algorithm.
estimate the effect of an exposure on mortality in occu- The reason is that MSM and SNM models, in contrast pational cohort studies.14,16 Similarly, one can unbi- to models based directly on the conditional probabilities asedly estimate the causal parameter of a SNM without in the g-computation algorithm formula, include param- having to model the probability of treatment given the eters that represent the null hypothesis of no treatment past through end of follow-up. Instead, in the setting of effect.12,15 As a consequence, when using the parametric a discrete A(k) and L(k) described above, one can un- g-computation algorithm estimator, it is quite difficult to biasedly estimate the parameters of SNMs by using a determine whether one’s confidence interval for the saturated model for the probability of exposure A(k) treatment effect includes the null hypothesis of no ef- given the past for k ϭ 0,1,2 periods and ignoring expo- sure at later periods, thus preventing bias due to mis- MSMs have two major advantages over SNMs. Al- specification of the model for exposure. Of course, as though useful for survival time outcomes, continuous always in statistical analysis, there will be a loss of measured outcomes (for example, blood pressure), and efficiency of estimation associated with this protection Poisson count outcomes, logistic SNMs cannot be con- against bias. Finally, in the presence of strong covariate- veniently used to estimate the effect of treatment on treatment associations, theoretical arguments imply that dichotomous (0, 1) outcomes unless the outcome is it should be possible to construct confidence intervals rare.1,2,12 This is because logistic SNMs cannot be fit by based on g-estimation of SNMs that are both narrower g-estimation. In contrast, as we have seen,4 IPTW esti- and have better coverage properties than those based on mation of logistic MSMs can be used to estimate the IPTW estimation of MSMs. However, further research is effect of a time-dependent treatment on a binary out- required to see whether this theoretical prediction is The second major advantage of MSMs is that they Another advantage of SNMs over MSMs is that, resemble standard models, whereas SNMs do not. For although MSMs are useful for estimating the causal example, the logistic MSM described in our companion effect of the prespecified treatment regime a៮ (for exam- paper4 and the Cox proportional hazards MSM described ple, always treat, treat on alternate months, etc), they here are the natural way to extend the ordinary logistic are much less useful than SNMs for modeling the inter- and time-dependent Cox models to allow for estimation action of treatment with a time-varying covariate and of causal effects. The close resemblance of MSMs to for estimating the effect of dynamic treatment plans in standard statistical models makes their application more which treatment on a given month is decided in part on intuitive for researchers and easier for programmers.
the basis of a subject’s evolving covariate history.1,2 It is Nevertheless, SNMs have a number of advantages important to recognize that actual medical treatment over MSMs. For example, as discussed in Ref 4, MSMs regimes are usually dynamic, because if a patient devel- should not be used to estimate effects in studies (such as ops a toxic reaction to a drug, the drug must be stopped.
occupational cohort or cancer screening studies) in Nonetheless, causal questions concerning prespecified which, at each time k there is a covariate level l(k) such treatment plans, such as estimating the effect of a con- that all subjects with that level of the covariate are tinuous exposure at a certain level vs no exposure, are of certain to receive the identical exposure a(k).1,2 great interest in many areas of epidemiology, including A second major drawback of MSMs is that one must be able to specify a correct model for the conditionalprobability of exposure, Discussion
pr͑ A͑k͒ ϭ a͑k͉͒L៮͑k͒ ϭ l៮͑k͒, A៮͑k Ϫ 1͒ ϭ a៮͑k Ϫ 1͒͒, We have used a marginal structural Cox proportionalhazards model to estimate the causal effect of zidovudine for each time k up to end of follow-up. This is unfortu- on mortality of HIV-positive patients in the MACS.
nate because, if the L(k) and A(k) are discrete, we could This method was used because standard statistical meth- use nonparametric saturated models for small values of k, ods are not appropriate when there exists time-depen- Epidemiology
dent confounding by variables, such as CD4 count, that are less restrictive than those of standard methods; MSMs do not require the absence of time-dependent Because of the presence of confounding, the crude confounding by variables affected by previous exposure.
mortality rate ratio for zidovudine was 3.6 (95% confi-dence interval-3.0 – 4.3), erroneously suggesting thatzidovudine increased risk of death. The rate ratio esti-mated by the (unweighted) standard model that in- Acknowledgments
cluded only baseline covariates, and that therefore does We thank Sander Greenland and several referees for helpful comments.
not adjust for time-dependent confounding, was 2.3 Data in this manuscript were collected by the Multicenter AIDS Cohort (95% confidence interval-1.9 –2.8), which still suggests Study (MACS) with centers (Principal Investigators) at The John HopkinsSchool of Public Health (Joseph Margolick, Alvaro Mun˜oz); Howard Brown Health Center and Northwestern University Medical School (John Phair); In fact, the mortality rate ratio for zidovudine was 0.7 University of California, Los Angeles (Roger Detels, Janis V. Giorgi, Beth (95% conservative confidence interval-0.6 –1.0) in the Jamieson); and University of Pittsburgh (Charles Rinaldo). The MACS isfunded by the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, with addi- weighted analysis that provides, under our assumptions, tional supplemental funding from the National Cancer Institute: UO1-AI- an unbiased estimate of the causal rate ratio, exp(␤ ), of 35042, 5-M01-RR-00052 (GCRC), UO1-AI-35043, UO1-AI-37984, UO1-AI- the marginal structural Cox model, because the 35039, UO1-AI-35040, UO1-AI-37613, UO1-AI-35041.
weighted analysis appropriately adjusts for time-depen-dent confounders affected by earlier treatment.
The difference between the unweighted and weighted estimates is an indication of the amount of confounding References
due to the time-dependent prognostic factors. The 1. Robins JM. Marginal Structural Models. 1997 Proceedings of the Section on weights can be interpreted as the number of copies of Bayesian Statistical Science. Alexandria, Virginia: American Statistical each observation that are necessary to form a pseudopo- 2. Robins JM. Marginal structural models versus structural nested models as pulation in which censoring does not exist and in which tools for causal inference. In: Halloran E, Berry D, eds. Statistical Models in the time-dependent prognostic factors do not predict Epidemiology: The Environment and Clinical Trials. New York: Springer- initiation of zidovudine history (that is, treatment is 3. Robins JM. Structural nested failure time models. In: Andersen PK, Keiding N, section eds. Survival Analysis. In: Armitage P, Colton C, eds. The Like all causal inferences, the validity of our analyses Encyclopedia of Biostatistics. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 1998; depends on a number of assumptions. First, we assume that the information on month of zidovudine initiation 4. Robins JM, Herna´n MA, Brumback B. Marginal structural models and causal inference in epidemiology. Epidemiology 2000;11:550 –560.
and month of death is accurate. Second, we assume that 5. Kaslow RA, Ostrow DG, Detels R, Phair JP, Polk BF, Rinaldo CR. The the measured covariates in L(t) are sufficient to adjust Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: rationale, organization, and selected char- for both confounding and selection bias due to loss to acteristics of the participants. Am J Epidemiol 1987;126:310 –318.
6. Graham NM, Zeger SL, Park LP, Vermund SH, Detels R, Rinaldo CR, Phair follow-up. This assumption implies that we have avail- JP. The effects on survival of early treatment of human immunodeficiency able, for each month t, accurate data recorded in L៮(t) on virus infection. N Engl J Med 1992;326:1037–1042.
all time-dependent covariates that (1) are independent 7. Robins JM. Causal inference from complex longitudinal data. In: Berkane M, ed. Latent Variable Modeling and Applications to Causality: Lecture predictors of death and (2) independently predict the Notes in Statistics 120. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1997;69 –117.
probability of starting zidovudine and/or of being cen- 8. Kinloch-De Loes S, Hirschel BJ, Hoen B, Cooper DA, Tindall B, Carr A, sored in that month. Unfortunately, as in all observa- Saurnt JH, Clumeck N, Lazzarin A, Mathiesen L, et al. A controlled trial ofzidovudine in primary human immunodeficiency virus infection. N Engl tional studies, these two assumptions cannot be tested from the data. In our analysis, we assume that this goal 9. D’Agostino RB, Lee M-L, Belanger AJ. Relation of pooled logistic regression has been realized, while recognizing that, in practice, to time dependent Cox regression analysis: the Framingham Heart Study.
Stat Med 1990;9:1501–1515.
this assumption would never be precisely or sometimes 10. Liang K-Y, Zeger SL. Longitudinal data analysis using generalized linear even approximately true. Recently, Robins et al.16 have developed extensions of IPTW estimation of MSMs that 11. Hastie TJ, Tibshirani RJ. Generalized Additive Models. New York: Chap- allow one to evaluate the sensitivity of one’s estimates to 12. Robins JM. Correction for non-compliance in equivalence trials. Stat Med increasing violation of these fundamental assumptions.
Third, we assume that the models for initiation of 13. Robins JM. A graphical approach to the identification and estimation of zidovudine and censoring, given the past, are correctly causal parameters in mortality studies with sustained exposure periods.
J Chron Dis 1987;40(suppl. 2):139S–161S.
specified. Fourth, we assume that our MSM for the effect 14. Robins JM, Blevins D, Ritter G, Wulfsohn M. G-estimation of the effect of of zidovudine on mortality, within levels of baseline prophylaxis therapy for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia on the survival of covariates V, is correctly specified.
AIDS patients (erratum in Epidemiology 1993:4;189). Epidemiology 1992;3:319 –336.
Although the stated assumptions may seem heroic, 15. Robins JM. The analysis of randomized and non-randomized AIDS treat- note that in point-exposure studies the same assump- ment trials using a new approach to causal inference in longitudinal studies.
tions (accurate information, no unmeasured confound- In: Sechrest L, Freeman H, Mulley A, eds. Health Service Research Meth-odology: A Focus on AIDS. Rockville, MD: National Center for Health ers, noninformative censoring, and no misspecification Services Research, U.S. Public Health Service, 1989;113–159.
of the model) are required to give a causal interpretation 16. Robins JM, Rotnitzky A, Scharfstein DO. Sensitivity analysis for selection to the parameters of standard statistical models. Further- bias and unmeasured confounding in missing data and causal inferencemodels. In: Halloran E, Berry D, eds. Statistical Methods in Epidemiology: more, when studying the effect of a time-dependent The Environment and Clinical Trials. New York: Springer Verlag, 1999;1– treatment such as zidovudine, the assumptions of MSMs Epidemiology
model 4 includes the time-dependent covariates (to For each model, we output a new data file (option In this appendix, we provide SAS code to fit the Cox “out ϭ” in Proc Logistic) that contains, for each person- proportional hazards MSM described in the text. The month, the original variables plus the predicted values original MACS data file contains one record per man, from the model (option “pϭ”). As an example, the first but here we use a transformed, or pooled, file (MAIN) Proc Logistic creates the data set MODEL1 with itspredicted values as the variable PZDV࿜0.
with each person-month as a separate record. This file In the following data step, we merge the four output format is necessary to fit pooled logistic models. The files in the file MAIN࿜W that contains the predicted code used to generate the pooled dataset from the orig- values from the four logistic models. We then compute inal one is available from the first author upon request.
the numerator K2࿜0 and the denominator K2࿜W of the The records in the file MAIN must be sorted by patient sw† (t) from models 3 and 4.
identification number (variable ID) and, within each ID iSimilarly, we calculate the numerator K1࿜0 and the level, by month of follow-up (MONTH).
denominator K1࿜W of the weights sw (t) for months in The SAS code shown below is organized as follows.
which the subject has not yet started zidovudine from First, we use Proc Logistic to fit four pooled logistic models 1 and 2. For a month in which a subject did models (two for the probability of remaining off zidovu- begin zidovudine, we multiply by 1 minus the predicted dine and two for the probability of remaining uncen- value. For months subsequent to starting zidovudine, we sored) and obtain their predicted values. Second, we use no longer update K1࿜0 and K1࿜W. Then we use the a SAS data step to calculate the weights for each person- numerators and denominators to calculate the “stabi- month from the predicted values of the previous four lized” weights sw (t) ϫ sw† (t) (STABW), and use the models. Last, we use Proc Genmod to fit the final denominators alone to calculate the “nonstabilized” weighted pooled logistic model that estimates the causal weights w (t) ϫ w† (t) (NSTABW).
parameter of interest and its robust standard error.
Finally, we call Proc Genmod to fit a weighted pooled The outcome variable in models 1 and 2 is a dichot- logistic model for survival to obtain consistent estimates omous variable A indicating whether the patient had of the parameters of our Cox MSM. The outcome vari- started (A ϭ 1) or remained off (A ϭ 0) zidovudine on able of this model, D, is a dichotomous variable indicat- that month. When the option “descending” is not spec- ing whether the patient died (D ϭ 1) or remained alive ified, Proc Logistic models the probability that the out- (D ϭ 0) in that month. The program will provide robust come variable is 0. Hence, models 1 and 2 model the standard errors for the model parameters when the op- probability of remaining off zidovudine. The “where” tion “repeated” is included. The patient identification statement restricts the analysis to patients not previously variable and the independent working correlation ma- on zidovudine by specifying that either month of fol- trix (“subject ϭ ID/type ϭ ind”) must be specified. We low-up (MONTH) is less than or equal to month of fit the model using the stabilized weights by specifying onset of zidovudine (ZDV࿜M) or zidovudine was never the variable STABW in the “scwgt” statement. Speci- initiated during the follow-up period (ZDV࿜M is coded fying the variable NSTABW fits the model with non- as missing, if this is the case). Model 1 includes as regressors a time-dependent intercept and the baseline The SAS code given below can also be used to fit the covariates V: baseline age, calendar year, CD4, CD8, logistic MSM of our companion paper.4 The only differ- WBC, RBC, platelets, and presence of symptoms. Model ence is that the final weighted logistic model in Proc 2 includes, in addition, the time-dependent covariates Genmod includes a single observation per person using L(t): most recently available CD4, CD8, WBC, RBC, as outcome variable the logistic variable Y of our com- platelets, symptoms, and AIDS-defining illness. We es- panion paper, rather than the survival variable D con- timate the time-dependent intercept by a smooth func- tion of the time since beginning of follow-up (MONTH)using natural cubic splines with five knots. To do so, we need to include, as regressors, the variables MONTH1, MONTH2, and MONTH3, that are specific polynomial functions of MONTH (calculated with the cubic splines model AϭAGE࿜0 YEAR࿜01 YEAR࿜02 YEAR࿜03 SAS macro RCSPLINE in survrisk.pak, by Frank Harrel, which is publicly available on http://jse.stat.ncsu.edu:70/ The outcome variable in models 3 and 4 is a dichot- omous variable C indicating whether the patient was censored (C ϭ 1) or uncensored (C ϭ 0) in that month.
Thus, models 3 and 4 model the probability of remaininguncensored for each person-month. All available per- son-months are used. Model 3 includes the baseline covariates and the time-dependent intercept, whereas Epidemiology
model AϭAGE࿜0 YEAR࿜01 YEAR࿜02 YEAR࿜03 /* reset the variables for a new patient */ k1࿜0ϭ1; k2࿜0ϭ1; k1࿜wϭ1; k2࿜wϭ1; /* Inverse probability of censoring weights */ /* Inverse probability of treatment weights */ /* patients not on zidovudine */if zdv࿜mϾday or zdv࿜m ϭ. then do; model CϭA AGE࿜0 YEAR࿜01 YEAR࿜02 YEAR࿜03 /* patients that start zidovudine this month */ /* patients that have already started zidovudine */ model CϭA AGE࿜0 YEAR࿜01 YEAR࿜02 YEAR࿜03 /* Stabilized and non stabilized weights */ CD4࿜1 CD4࿜2 CD8࿜1 CD8࿜2WBC࿜1 WBC࿜2 RBC࿜1 RBC࿜2 PLAT࿜1 PLAT࿜2 SYMPT AIDSMONTH MONTH1-MONTH3; model DϭA AGE࿜0 YEAR࿜01 YEAR࿜02 YEAR࿜03 /* variables ending with ࿜0 refer to the numerator of the variables ending with ࿜w refer to the denominator of

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Microsoft word - planning before your surgery.doc

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Merck Poster 800x500_2007-7 17.10.2007 16:49 Uhr Seite 1 New Modified-Release (MR) Prednisone Tablet Shows Sustained Reduction of Morning Stiffness and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Frank Buttgereit1, Gisela Doering2, Achim Schaeffler3, Stephan Witte3, Jacek Szechinski4, Rieke Alten5. 1Charité University Hospital, CCM, Berlin, Germany; 2Merck KGaA, Darmstadt,

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