Borrowing strength from clinical trials in analysing longitudinal data from a treated cohort: Investigating the effectiveness of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in the management of dementia

Ruth Knight, Robert Stewart, Mizanur Khondoker, Sabine Landau

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Background: Health care professionals seek information about effectiveness of treatments in patients who would be offered them in routine clinical practice. Electronic medical records (EMRs) and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) can both provide data on treatment effects; however, each data source has limitations when considered in isolation.

Methods: A novel modelling methodology which incorporates RCT estimates in the analysis of EMR data via informative prior distributions is proposed. A Bayesian mixed modelling approach is used to model outcome trajectories among patients in the EMR dataset receiving the treatment of interest. This model incorporates an estimate of treatment effect based on a meta-analysis of RCTs as an informative prior distribution. This provides a combined estimate of treatment effect based on both data sources.

Results: The superior performance of the novel combined estimator is demonstrated via a simulation study. The new approach is applied to estimate the effectiveness at 12 months after treatment initiation of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in the management of the cognitive symptoms of dementia in terms of Mini-Mental State Examination scores. This demonstrated that estimates based on either trials data only (1.10, SE = 0.316) or cohort data only (1.56, SE = 0.240) overestimated this compared with the estimate using data from both sources (0.86, SE = 0.327).

Conclusions: It is possible to combine data from EMRs and RCTs in order to provide better estimates of treatment effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827–836
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number3
Early online date11 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Bayesian modelling
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • acetylcholinesterase inhibitors
  • cognition
  • dementia
  • electronic medical record

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