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Biometrics. 2002 Mar;58(1):21-9.

Principal stratification in causal inference.

Author information

1
Department of Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA. cfrangak@jhsph.edu

Abstract

Many scientific problems require that treatment comparisons be adjusted for posttreatment variables, but the estimands underlying standard methods are not causal effects. To address this deficiency, we propose a general framework for comparing treatments adjusting for posttreatment variables that yields principal effects based on principal stratification. Principal stratification with respect to a posttreatment variable is a cross-classification of subjects defined by the joint potential values of that posttreatment variable tinder each of the treatments being compared. Principal effects are causal effects within a principal stratum. The key property of principal strata is that they are not affected by treatment assignment and therefore can be used just as any pretreatment covariate. such as age category. As a result, the central property of our principal effects is that they are always causal effects and do not suffer from the complications of standard posttreatment-adjusted estimands. We discuss briefly that such principal causal effects are the link between three recent applications with adjustment for posttreatment variables: (i) treatment noncompliance, (ii) missing outcomes (dropout) following treatment noncompliance. and (iii) censoring by death. We then attack the problem of surrogate or biomarker endpoints, where we show, using principal causal effects, that all current definitions of surrogacy, even when perfectly true, do not generally have the desired interpretation as causal effects of treatment on outcome. We go on to forrmulate estimands based on principal stratification and principal causal effects and show their superiority.

PMID:
11890317
PMCID:
PMC4137767
DOI:
10.1111/j.0006-341x.2002.00021.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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