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Stat Methods Med Res ; : 962280219850595, 2019 May 30.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31144601


As individuals may respond differently to treatment, estimating subgroup effects is important to understand the characteristics of individuals who may benefit. Factors that define subgroups may be correlated, complicating evaluation of subgroup effects, especially in observational studies requiring control of confounding variables. We address this problem when propensity score methods are used for confounding control. A common practice is to evaluate candidate subgroup identifiers one at a time without adjusting for other candidate identifiers. We show that this practice can be misleading if the treatment effect modification attributed to a candidate identifier is in truth due to the effect of other correlated true effect modifiers. Whereas jointly analyzing multiple identifiers provides estimates of the desired subgroup effects adjusted for the effects of the other identifiers, it requires the propensity scores to adequately reflect the underlying treatment selection processes and balance the covariates within each subgroup of interest. Satisfying the requirement in practice is hard since the number of strata may increase quickly, while the per stratum sample size may decrease dramatically. A practically helpful approach is utilizing the whole cohort for the propensity score estimation with modeling of interaction terms to reflect the potentially different treatment selection processes across strata. We empirically examine the performance of the whole cohort approach by itself and with subjecting the interaction terms to variable selection. Our results using both simulations and real data analysis suggest that the whole cohort approach should explore inclusion of high-order interactions in the propensity score model to ensure adequate covariate balance across strata, and that variable selection is of limited utility.