Authors: Beisemann, Marie
Doebler, Philipp
Holling, Heinz
Title: Comparison of random‐effects meta‐analysis models for the relative risk in the case of rare events - a simulation study
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: Pooling the relative risk (RR) across studies investigating rare events, for example, adverse events, via meta‐analytical methods still presents a challenge to researchers. The main reason for this is the high probability of observing no events in treatment or control group or both, resulting in an undefined log RR (the basis of standard meta‐analysis). Other technical challenges ensue, for example, the violation of normality assumptions, or bias due to exclusion of studies and application of continuity corrections, leading to poor performance of standard approaches. In the present simulation study, we compared three recently proposed alternative models (random‐effects [RE] Poisson regression, RE zero‐inflated Poisson [ZIP] regression, binomial regression) to the standard methods in conjunction with different continuity corrections and to different versions of beta‐binomial regression. Based on our investigation of the models' performance in 162 different simulation settings informed by meta‐analyses from the Cochrane database and distinguished by different underlying true effects, degrees of between‐study heterogeneity, numbers of primary studies, group size ratios, and baseline risks, we recommend the use of the RE Poisson regression model. The beta‐binomial model recommended by Kuss (2015) also performed well. Decent performance was also exhibited by the ZIP models, but they also had considerable convergence issues. We stress that these recommendations are only valid for meta‐analyses with larger numbers of primary studies. All models are applied to data from two Cochrane reviews to illustrate differences between and issues of the models. Limitations as well as practical implications and recommendations are discussed; a flowchart summarizing recommendations is provided.
Subject Headings: Beta-binomial regression, (zero-inflated)
Poisson regression
Random-effects meta-analysis
Rare events
Relative risk
Issue Date: 2020-06-08
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Appears in Collections:Statistische Methoden in den Sozialwissenschaften

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