Advancing unanchored simulated treatment comparisons: a novel implementation and simulation study

Shijie Ren*, Sa Ren, Nicky J Welton, Mark Strong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Population-adjusted indirect comparisons, developed in the 2010s, enable comparisons between two treatments in different studies by balancing patient characteristics in the case where individual-patient level data (IPD) is available for only one study. Health technology assessment (HTA) bodies increasingly rely on these methods to inform funding decisions, typically using unanchored indirect comparisons (i.e., without a common comparator), due to the need to evaluate comparative efficacy and safety for single-arm trials. Unanchored matching-adjusted indirect comparison (MAIC) and unanchored simulated treatment comparison (STC) are currently the only two approaches available for population-adjusted indirect comparisons based on single-arm trials. However, there is a notable underutilisation of unanchored STC in HTA, largely due to a lack of understanding of its implementation. We therefore develop a novel way to implement unanchored STC by incorporating standardisation/marginalisation and the NORmal To Anything (NORTA) algorithm for sampling covariates. This methodology aims to derive a suitable marginal treatment effect without aggregation bias for HTA evaluations. We use a non-parametric bootstrap and propose separately calculating the standard error for the IPD study and the comparator study to ensure the appropriate quantification of the uncertainty associated with the estimated treatment effect. The performance of our proposed unanchored STC approach is evaluated through a comprehensive simulation study focused on binary outcomes. Our findings demonstrate that the proposed approach is asymptotically unbiased. We argue that unanchored STC should be considered when conducting unanchored indirect comparisons with single-arm studies, presenting a robust approach for HTA decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Synthesis Methods
Early online date8 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2024

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© 2024 The Authors. Research Synthesis Methods published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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