NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Cover of Findings of Bayesian Mixed Treatment Comparison Meta-Analyses

Findings of Bayesian Mixed Treatment Comparison Meta-Analyses

Comparison and Exploration Using Real-World Trial Data and Simulation

Methods Research Reports

Investigators: , MD, MPH, , MS, , PhD, , PhD, , MA, , MD, MPH, , MSPH, and , MD, MPH.

RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 13-EHC039-EF

Structured Abstract


Specific objectives were to examine the following: (1a) how results of Bayesian mixed treatment comparison (MTC) methods compare with several commonly considered frequentist indirect methods; (1b) how Bayesian MTC methods perform for different evidence network patterns; (2) how meta-regression can be used with Bayesian MTC meta-analysis to explore heterogeneity; and (3) how findings of Bayesian MTC meta-analyses compare for different numbers of studies and different network pattern assumptions. For objectives 1 and 2, we aimed to conduct case studies using data from two recent comparative effectiveness reviews (CERs). For objective 3, we aimed to use simulated data.


For objectives 1 and 2, we used data from CERs that examined second-generation antidepressants (SGAs) and biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). For objective 1, we compared results of Bayesian MTC methods with those of three frequentist indirect methods: meta-regression, the Bucher method, and logistic regression for dichotomous and continuous outcomes. For objective 2, we conducted two types of meta-regression. One explored subgroup effects with a binary covariate to assess whether efficacy of SGAs differs between older adults (≥55 years) and adults of any age. The other explored a continuous covariate to assess whether treatment efficacy varies by disease duration of RA. For objective 3, we used simulated data to examine the Bayesian MTC method's ability to produce valid results for two data scenarios when varying numbers of studies were available for each comparison for various network patterns.


Bayesian MTC methods permitted the calculation of results for more comparisons of interest than frequentist meta-regression or the Bucher method (when applied as they would typically be used). When comparisons were calculated, the findings generally agreed but differed for a small proportion (less than 10%) of comparisons. Regarding precision, logistic regression produced the most precise estimates, followed by the Bayesian MTC method.

Our meta-regressions found a trend toward lesser efficacy for SGAs in older adults and a trend toward greater efficacy of biologic DMARDs for those with greater mean disease duration.

Our simulations supported the validity of Bayesian MTC methods for star and ladder network patterns but raised some concerns about one closed loop (and possibly loop) network patterns. Simulations generally found similar probabilities for which drug was the best treatment for scenarios when only 1 study was available for each comparison and those when more studies (2, 3, 5, or 10) were available; precision increased as the number of available studies increased.


Bayesian MTC methods offer several advantages over frequentist indirect methods, including the ability to produce results for all comparisons of interest in a single analysis. Results of Bayesian MTC methods and those of frequentist indirect methods may differ for a small proportion of comparisons, which could lead to differences in conclusions when using different methods. Our findings raise some concerns about the validity of the results of Bayesian MTC methods for certain network patterns. Further research is needed to explore additional real-world datasets and simulated data to determine if our findings are reproducible or generalizable and to better understand the validity of Bayesian MTC methods for various scenarios.


Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1, Contract No. 290-2007-10056-I. Prepared by: RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center, Research Triangle Park, NC

Suggested citation:

Jonas DE, Wilkins TM, Bangdiwala S, Bann CM, Morgan LC, Thaler KJ, Amick HR, Gartlehner G. Findings of Bayesian Mixed Treatment Comparison Meta-Analyses: Comparison and Exploration Using Real-World Trial Data and Simulation. (Prepared by RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10056-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 13-EHC039-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; February 2013.

This report is based on research conducted by the RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center, (EPC) under contract to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, MD (Contract No. 290-2007-10056-I). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The information in this report is intended to help health care decisionmakers—patients and clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers, among others—make well informed decisions and thereby improve the quality of health care services. This report is not intended to be a substitute for the application of clinical judgment. Anyone who makes decisions concerning the provision of clinical care should consider this report in the same way as any medical reference and in conjunction with all other pertinent information, i.e., in the context of available resources and circumstances presented by individual patients.

This report may be used, in whole or in part, as the basis for development of clinical practice guidelines and other quality enhancement tools, or as a basis for reimbursement and coverage policies. AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of such derivative products may not be stated or implied.

None of the investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement that conflicts with material presented in this report.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850; www‚Äč

Bookshelf ID: NBK126109PMID: 23469378


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (2.4M)

Related information

Similar articles in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...