Commentary on meta-analysis in clinical trials



This paper examines eight published reviews each reporting results from several related trials. Each review pools the results from the relevant trials in order to evaluate the efficacy of a certain treatment for a specified medical condition. These reviews lack consistent assessment of homogeneity of treatment effect before pooling. We discuss a random effects approach to combining evidence from a series of experiments comparing two treatments. This approach incorporates the heterogeneity of effects in the analysis of the overall treatment efficacy. The model can be extended to include relevant covariates which would reduce the heterogeneity and allow for more specific therapeutic recommendations. We suggest a simple noniterative procedure for characterizing the distribution of treatment effects in a series of studies.