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Biometrics. 2013 Jun;69(2):310-7. doi: 10.1111/biom.12022. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

Identification and efficient estimation of the natural direct effect among the untreated.

Author information

1
Division of Biostatistics, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. lendle@stat.berkeley.edu

Abstract

The natural direct effect (NDE), or the effect of an exposure on an outcome if an intermediate variable was set to the level it would have been in the absence of the exposure, is often of interest to investigators. In general, the statistical parameter associated with the NDE is difficult to estimate in the non-parametric model, particularly when the intermediate variable is continuous or high dimensional. In this article, we introduce a new causal parameter called the natural direct effect among the untreated, discuss identifiability assumptions, propose a sensitivity analysis for some of the assumptions, and show that this new parameter is equivalent to the NDE in a randomized controlled trial. We also present a targeted minimum loss estimator (TMLE), a locally efficient, double robust substitution estimator for the statistical parameter associated with this causal parameter. The TMLE can be applied to problems with continuous and high dimensional intermediate variables, and can be used to estimate the NDE in a randomized controlled trial with such data. Additionally, we define and discuss the estimation of three related causal parameters: the natural direct effect among the treated, the indirect effect among the untreated and the indirect effect among the treated.

PMID:
23607645
PMCID:
PMC3692606
DOI:
10.1111/biom.12022
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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