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Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Sep 1;162(5):471-8. Epub 2005 Aug 2.

Marginal structural models for estimating the effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy initiation on CD4 cell count.

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Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) on the evolution of CD4-positive T-lymphocyte (CD4 cell) count among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive participants was estimated using inverse probability-of-treatment-and-censoring (IPTC)-weighted estimation of a marginal structural model. Of 1,763 eligible participants from two US cohort studies followed between 1996 and 2002, 60 percent initiated HAART. The IPTC-weighted estimate of the difference in mean CD4 cell count at 1 year among participants continuously treated versus those never treated was 71 cells/mm3 (95% confidence interval: 47.5, 94.6), which agrees with the reported results of randomized experiments. The corresponding estimate from a standard generalized estimating equations regression model that included baseline and most recent CD4 cell count and HIV type 1 RNA viral load as regressors was 26 cells/mm3 (95% confidence interval: 17.7, 34.3). These results indicate that nonrandomized studies of HIV treatment need to be analyzed with methods (e.g., IPTC-weighted estimation) that, in contrast to standard methods, appropriately adjust for time-varying covariates that are simultaneously confounders and intermediate variables. The 1-year estimate of 71 cells/mm3 was followed by an estimated continued increase of 29 cells/mm3 per year (estimated effect at 6 years: 216 cells/mm3), providing evidence that the large short-term effect found in randomized experiments persists and continues to improve over 6 years.

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