rema (rare event meta-analysis) package performs a permutation-based meta-analysis for heterogeneous, rare event data. Rare events and sparse data often cause conventional approaches to fail. While recent work in this area has provided options for sparse data, problems can still arise when heterogeneity across the available studies differs based on treatment group. This package provides a meta-analysis approach that often outperforms traditional methods when such patterns of rare events and heterogeneity are observed.
It is important to note that
rema is designed for small data sets with rare events. Computation time and memory usage increase rapidly as the number of observed events increases. Particularly,
rema should not be used on a machine with a standard amount of RAM if the total number of observations is relatively large and the observed event rates are relatively large, or if the total number of observed events is relatively large.
The following table contains information from a data set regarding the use of antibiotics, which we will use to illustrate this package (data provided by Spinks et al. (2013), Analysis 4.1 and used in Friedrich et al. (2007)). Sixteen studies, conducted from 1950 to 2000, compare the use of antibiotics to prevent acute rheumatic fever, a sore throat resulting from inadequately treated strep throat or scarlet fever, compared to a placebo. The event of interest is the occurrence of acute rheumatic fever.
|Study||Antibiotics Events||Antibiotics Total||Placebo Events||Placebo Total|
We will use the
rema package to analyze this data. We note that the event of acute rheumatic fever is rare, and the data is sparse. We also notice the relatively large number of events in some of the cells (particularly, in study 16 and studies 11 and 12 for the placebo group), which will increase computation time and memory usage. Accordingly, we ran this data set on a system with an Intel Xeon processor E5-2689 v4 @ 3.10GHz with 192GB of RAM, and it took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to run.
The default arguments of the
rema function are
rema(trt.events = NULL, trt.total = NULL, ctrl.events = NULL, ctrl.total = NULL, mid.p = TRUE, distr = TRUE, one.sided.p = FALSE, alpha = 0.05) rema.obj,
ctrl.total are numeric vectors containing, for each independent study, the number of observed events in the treatment group, the total number of observations in the treatment group, the number of observed events in the control group, and the total number of observations in the control group, respectively. The remaining arguments specify whether the p-values and confidence interval should be adjusted using the mid-p correction to reduce conservatism (
mid.p), whether the permutational distribution of the test statistic is returned (
distr), whether the one-sided p-value is returned (
one.sided.p), and the level of confidence for a (1 - alpha)% confidence interval for the overall treatment effect (
For the antibiotics data example, we will create the four needed vectors as follows.
<- c(0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 5, 0, 2, 2, 26) anti.events <- c(121, 59, 358, 454, 238, 62, 186, 87, 369, 257, 798, 978, 605, anti.total 277, 157, 650) <- c(0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 17, 35, 2, 5, 1, 12) plac.events <- c(118, 58, 164, 216, 268, 59, 97, 94, 386, 109, 804, 996, 608, plac.total 198, 50, 220)
It is important to note that no continuity correction should be applied to studies with zero observed events to data sets passed into
rema will return a list with elements that include the combined odds ratio, its associated (1 - alpha)% confidence interval, and the two-sided p-value. The following examples illustrate how the returned object and resulting output differ depending on the values passed to the various arguments listed above.
This example runs
rema with the default values. The output contains the combined odds ratio, its associated 95% confidence interval, and the mid-p corrected two-sided p-value. Under the details section, the method used when computing the odds ratio and its confidence interval is reported. If the observed test statistic is not at either extreme (the minimum or maximum value) of the distribution, the conditional maximum likelihood estimate (CMLE) will be used; otherwise, the median unbiased estimate (MUE) will be employed. Here, the CMLE was used. Overall, this method indicates no decrease the risk of acute rheumatic fever from the use of antibiotics.
<- rema(anti.events, anti.total, plac.events, plac.total) antibiotics.rema summary(antibiotics.rema) # Call: # rema(trt.events = anti.events, trt.total = anti.total, ctrl.events = plac.events, # ctrl.total = plac.total) # # OR 95%-CI p-value # 0.5708 [0.1947; 1.5984] 0.2556 # # Details on meta-analytical method: # - Rare event, heterogeneous meta-analysis method # - Two-sided p-value returned (mid.p = TRUE) # - Conditional Maximum Likelihood Estimate (CMLE) used when computing the odds ratio
Some may find it interesting to view the permutational distribution. Since the distribution is saved by default, it can be called and printed or visualized with the
plot function. The asterisk in the plot marks the observed value of the test statistic, and the dark grey bars mark the area that contributes to the two-sided p-value. The observed value of the test statistics is also saved in the
$dist antibiotics.rema#> test.stat norm.probs #> 1 27 6.716051e-12 #> 2 28 6.243005e-10 #> 3 29 4.605874e-08 #> 4 30 1.178779e-06 #> 5 31 1.810190e-05 #> 6 32 1.900967e-04 #> 7 33 1.361220e-03 #> 8 34 6.418245e-03 #> 9 35 2.290489e-02 #> 10 36 5.697199e-02 #> 11 37 1.160254e-01 #> 12 38 1.694432e-01 #> 13 39 2.084688e-01 #> 14 40 1.724891e-01 #> 15 41 1.360043e-01 #> 16 42 6.433921e-02 #> 17 43 3.335175e-02 #> 18 44 8.452742e-03 #> 19 45 3.156814e-03 #> 20 46 3.155256e-04 #> 21 47 8.395551e-05 #> 22 48 2.683688e-06 #> 23 49 7.058532e-07 #> 24 50 6.078317e-09 #> 25 51 1.895755e-09 #> 26 52 3.216023e-12 #> 27 53 5.180658e-14 $tstat antibiotics.rema#>  37
For the remaining examples, we will use the
antibiotics.rema object as input instead of the first four vectors. Running
rema once with the first four vectors allows us to obtain the permutational distribution. Once we have that distribution, the various arguments pertaining to inference (e.g.
alpha) can be changed without the need to recompute the distribution, saving computation time.
This example requests the one-sided p-value be returned. The summary output does not change, but the returned object now has the element
pval.one.sided that can be accessed. This p-value is the sum of the probabilities from test statistics less than or equal to the observed test statistic (the direction of the treatment effect), with the mid-p adjustment.
<- rema(antibiotics.rema, one.sided.p = TRUE) antibiotics.rema.one.pval $pval.one.sided antibiotics.rema.one.pval#>  0.1458785
This example applies no correction to the confidence bounds and the two-sided p-value. As expected, the 95% confidence interval is wider, and the two-sided p-value is larger when the mid-p correction to reduce conservatism is not applied.
rema(antibiotics.rema, mid.p = FALSE) #> Call: #> rema(trt.events = antibiotics.rema, mid.p = FALSE) #> #> OR 95%-CI p-value #> 0.5708 [0.1738; 1.7631] 0.3136 #> #> Details on meta-analytical method: #> - Rare event, heterogeneous meta-analysis method #> - Two-sided p-value returned (mid.p = FALSE) #> - Conditional Maximum Likelihood Estimate (CMLE) used when computing the odds ratio
This example sets the
alpha argument to 0.1, resulting in a 90% confidence interval. As expected, increasing alpha decreases the confidence interval width.
rema(antibiotics.rema, alpha = 0.1) #> Call: #> rema(trt.events = antibiotics.rema, alpha = 0.1) #> #> OR 90%-CI p-value #> 0.5708 [0.2331; 1.3585] 0.2556 #> #> Details on meta-analytical method: #> - Rare event, heterogeneous meta-analysis method #> - Two-sided p-value returned (mid.p = TRUE) #> - Conditional Maximum Likelihood Estimate (CMLE) used when computing the odds ratio