A systematic review of simulation studies which compare existing statistical methods to account for non-compliance in randomised controlled trials
Non-compliance is a common challenge for researchers and may reduce the power of an intention-to-treat analysis. Whilst a per protocol approach attempts to deal with this issue, it can result in biased estimates. Several methods to resolve this issue have been identified in previous reviews, but there is limited evidence supporting their use. This review aimed to identify simulation studies which compare such methods, assess the extent to which certain methods have been investigated and determine their performance under various scenarios.
A systematic search of several electronic databases including MEDLINE and Scopus was carried out from conception to 30th November 2022. Included papers were published in a peer-reviewed journal, readily available in the English language and focused on comparing relevant methods in a superiority randomised controlled trial under a simulation study. Articles were screened using these criteria and a predetermined extraction form used to identify relevant information. A quality assessment appraised the risk of bias in individual studies. Extracted data was synthesised using tables, figures and a narrative summary. Both screening and data extraction were performed by two independent reviewers with disagreements resolved by consensus.
Of 2325 papers identified, 267 full texts were screened and 17 studies finally included. Twelve methods were identified across papers. Instrumental variable methods were commonly considered, but many authors found them to be biased in some settings. Non-compliance was generally assumed to be all-or-nothing and only occurring in the intervention group, although some methods considered it as time-varying. Simulation studies commonly varied the level and type of non-compliance and factors such as effect size and strength of confounding. The quality of papers was generally good, although some lacked detail and justification. Therefore, their conclusions were deemed to be less reliable.
It is common for papers to consider instrumental variable methods but more studies are needed that consider G-methods and compare a wide range of methods in realistic scenarios. It is difficult to make conclusions about the best method to deal with non-compliance due to a limited body of evidence and the difficulty in combining results from independent simulation studies.
National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), award numbers NIHR301980, NIHR301883 and NIHR302030 respectively
National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East Midlands (ARC EM) and Leicester NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)
Author affiliationDepartment of Population Health Sciences, University of Leicester
- VoR (Version of Record)