Systematically Missing Data in Causally Interpretable Meta-Analysis

by   Jon A. Steingrimsson, et al.

Causally interpretable meta-analysis combines information from a collection of randomized controlled trials to estimate treatment effects in a target population in which experimentation may not be possible but covariate information can be collected from a simple random sample. In such analyses, a key practical challenge is systematically missing data when some baseline covariates are not collected in all trials. Here, we provide identification results for potential (counterfactual) outcome means and average treatment effects in the target population when covariate data are systematically missing from some of the trials in the meta-analysis. We propose three estimators for the average treatment effect in the target population, examine their asymptotic properties, and show that they have good finite-sample performance in simulation studies. We use the estimators to analyze data from two large lung cancer screening trials and target population data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). To accommodate the complex survey design of the NHANES, we modify the methods to incorporate survey sampling weights and allow for clustering.


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