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Comparison of Methods that Combine Multiple Randomized Trials to Estimate Heterogeneous Treatment Effects

Carly Lupton BrantnerTrang Quynh NguyenTengjie TangCongwen ZhaoHwanhee HongElizabeth A. Stuart
Nov 2023
Individualized treatment decisions can improve health outcomes, but using data to make these decisions in a reliable, precise, and generalizable way is challenging with a single dataset. Leveraging multiple randomized controlled trials allows for the combination of datasets with unconfounded treatment assignment to better estimate heterogeneous treatment effects. This paper discusses several non-parametric approaches for estimating heterogeneous treatment effects using data from multiple trials. We extend single-study methods to a scenario with multiple trials and explore their performance through a simulation study, with data generation scenarios that have differing levels of cross-trial heterogeneity. The simulations demonstrate that methods that directly allow for heterogeneity of the treatment effect across trials perform better than methods that do not, and that the choice of single-study method matters based on the functional form of the treatment effect. Finally, we discuss which methods perform well in each setting and then apply them to four randomized controlled trials to examine effect heterogeneity of treatments for major depressive disorder.
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