Estimation of treatment efficacy with complier average causal effects (CACE) in a randomized stepped wedge trial.
Published Web Locationhttps://academic.oup.com/aje/article/179/9/1134/2739081
Complier average causal effects (CACE) estimate the impact of an intervention among treatment compliers in randomized trials. Methods used to estimate CACE have been outlined for parallel-arm trials (e.g., using an instrumental variables (IV) estimator) but not for other randomized study designs. Here, we propose a method for estimating CACE in randomized stepped wedge trials, where experimental units cross over from control conditions to intervention conditions in a randomized sequence. We illustrate the approach with a cluster-randomized drinking water trial conducted in rural Mexico from 2009 to 2011. Additionally, we evaluated the plausibility of assumptions required to estimate CACE using the IV approach, which are testable in stepped wedge trials but not in parallel-arm trials. We observed small increases in the magnitude of CACE risk differences compared with intention-to-treat estimates for drinking water contamination (risk difference (RD) = -22% (95% confidence interval (CI): -33, -11) vs. RD = -19% (95% CI: -26, -12)) and diarrhea (RD = -0.8% (95% CI: -2.1, 0.4) vs. RD = -0.1% (95% CI: -1.1, 0.9)). Assumptions required for IV analysis were probably violated. Stepped wedge trials allow investigators to estimate CACE with an approach that avoids the stronger assumptions required for CACE estimation in parallel-arm trials. Inclusion of CACE estimates in stepped wedge trials with imperfect compliance could enhance reporting and interpretation of the results of such trials.