JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Concordance of Results from Randomized and Observational Analyses within the Same Study: A Re-Analysis of the Women's Health Initiative Limited-Access Dataset

Mark J Bolland, Andrew Grey, Greg D Gamble, Ian R Reid
PloS One 2015, 10 (10): e0139975
26440516

BACKGROUND: Observational studies (OS) and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) often report discordant results. In the Women's Health Initiative Calcium and Vitamin D (WHI CaD) RCT, women were randomly assigned to CaD or placebo, but were permitted to use personal calcium and vitamin D supplements, creating a unique opportunity to compare results from randomized and observational analyses within the same study.

METHODS: WHI CaD was a 7-year RCT of 1g calcium/400IU vitamin D daily in 36,282 post-menopausal women. We assessed the effects of CaD on cardiovascular events, death, cancer and fracture in a randomized design- comparing CaD with placebo in 43% of women not using personal calcium or vitamin D supplements- and in a observational design- comparing women in the placebo group (44%) using personal calcium and vitamin D supplements with non-users. Incidence was assessed using Cox proportional hazards models, and results from the two study designs deemed concordant if the absolute difference in hazard ratios was ≤0.15. We also compared results from WHI CaD to those from the WHI Observational Study(WHI OS), which used similar methodology for analyses and recruited from the same population.

RESULTS: In WHI CaD, for myocardial infarction and stroke, results of unadjusted and 6/8 covariate-controlled observational analyses (age-adjusted, multivariate-adjusted, propensity-adjusted, propensity-matched) were not concordant with the randomized design results. For death, hip and total fracture, colorectal and total cancer, unadjusted and covariate-controlled observational results were concordant with randomized results. For breast cancer, unadjusted and age-adjusted observational results were concordant with randomized results, but only 1/3 other covariate-controlled observational results were concordant with randomized results. Multivariate-adjusted results from WHI OS were concordant with randomized WHI CaD results for only 4/8 endpoints.

CONCLUSIONS: Results of randomized analyses in WHI CaD were concordant with observational analyses for 5/8 endpoints in WHI CaD and 4/8 endpoints in WHI OS.

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