Bias and precision of measures of survival gain from right-censored data.

Lamb, KE. Williamson, EJ. Coory, M. Carlin, JB.
Pharm Stat, 2015;14(5):409-17.

In cost-effectiveness analyses of drugs or health technologies, estimates of life years saved or quality-adjusted life years saved are required. Randomised controlled trials can provide an estimate of the average treatment effect; for survival data, the treatment effect is the difference in mean survival. However, typically not all patients will have reached the endpoint of interest at the close-out of a trial, making it difficult to estimate the difference in mean survival. In this situation, it is common to report the more readily estimable difference in median survival. Alternative approaches to estimating the mean have also been proposed. We conducted a simulation study to investigate the bias and precision of the three most commonly used sample measures of absolute survival gain Рdifference in median, restricted mean and extended mean survival Рwhen used as estimates of the true mean difference, under different censoring proportions, while assuming a range of survival patterns, represented by Weibull survival distributions with constant, increasing and decreasing hazards. Our study showed that the three commonly used methods tended to underestimate the true treatment effect; consequently, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) would be overestimated. Of the three methods, the least biased is the extended mean survival, which perhaps should be used as the point estimate of the treatment effect to be inputted into the ICER, while the other two approaches could be used in sensitivity analyses. More work on the trade-offs between simple extrapolation using the exponential distribution and more complicated extrapolation using other methods would be valuable. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.