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Contemp Clin Trials. 2007 Feb;28(2):105-14. Epub 2006 May 12.

Random-effects model for meta-analysis of clinical trials: an update.

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Biostatistics Research Branch, Division of Clinical Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The random-effects model is often used for meta-analysis of clinical studies. The method explicitly accounts for the heterogeneity of studies through a statistical parameter representing the inter-study variation. We discuss several iterative and non-iterative alternative methods for estimating the inter-study variance and hence the overall population treatment effect. We show that the leading methods for estimating the inter-study variance are special cases of a general method-of-moments estimate of the inter-study variance. The general method suggests two new two-step methods. The iterative estimate is statistically optimal and it can be easily calculated on a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, available on the desktop of most researchers. The two-step methods approximate the optimal iterative method better than the earlier one-step non-iterative methods.

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