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Causal inference with generalized structural mean models

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Summary. 

We estimate cause–effect relationships in empirical research where exposures are not completely controlled, as in observational studies or with patient non-compliance and self-selected treatment switches in randomized clinical trials. Additive and multiplicative structural mean models have proved useful for this but suffer from the classical limitations of linear and log-linear models when accommodating binary data. We propose the generalized structural mean model to overcome these limitations. This is a semiparametric two-stage model which extends the structural mean model to handle non-linear average exposure effects. The first-stage structural model describes the causal effect of received exposure by contrasting the means of observed and potential exposure-free outcomes in exposed subsets of the population. For identification of the structural parameters, a second stage ‘nuisance’ model is introduced. This takes the form of a classical association model for expected outcomes given observed exposure. Under the model, we derive estimating equations which yield consistent, asymptotically normal and efficient estimators of the structural effects. We examine their robustness to model misspecification and construct robust estimators in the absence of any exposure effect. The double-logistic structural mean model is developed in more detail to estimate the effect of observed exposure on the success of treatment in a randomized controlled blood pressure reduction trial with self-selected non-compliance.
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Keywords: Causality; Confounding; Non-compliance; Semiparametric models; Structural models

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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