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Res Synth Methods. 2012 Jun;3(2):111-25. doi: 10.1002/jrsm.1045.

Consistency and inconsistency in network meta-analysis: model estimation using multivariate meta-regression.

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MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge, UK.
Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, UK.


Network meta-analysis (multiple treatments meta-analysis, mixed treatment comparisons) attempts to make the best use of a set of studies comparing more than two treatments. However, it is important to assess whether a body of evidence is consistent or inconsistent. Previous work on models for network meta-analysis that allow for heterogeneity between studies has either been restricted to two-arm trials or followed a Bayesian framework. We propose two new frequentist ways to estimate consistency and inconsistency models by expressing them as multivariate random-effects meta-regressions, which can be implemented in some standard software packages. We illustrate the approach using the mvmeta package in Stata.

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