Modeling longitudinal count data with dropouts


  • This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

  • The views expressed in this paper are the author's personal views and not necessarily of the US Food and Drug Administration.


This paper explores the utility of different approaches for modeling longitudinal count data with dropouts arising from a clinical study for the treatment of actinic keratosis lesions on the face and balding scalp. A feature of these data is that as the disease for subjects on the active arm improves their data show larger dispersion compared with those on the vehicle, exhibiting an over-dispersion relative to the Poisson distribution. After fitting the marginal (or population averaged) model using the generalized estimating equation (GEE), we note that inferences from such a model might be biased as dropouts are treatment related. Then, we consider using a weighted GEE (WGEE) where each subject's contribution to the analysis is weighted inversely by the subject's probability of dropout. Based on the model findings, we argue that the WGEE might not address the concerns about the impact of dropouts on the efficacy findings when dropouts are treatment related. As an alternative, we consider likelihood-based inference where random effects are added to the model to allow for heterogeneity across subjects. Finally, we consider a transition model where, unlike the previous approaches that model the log-link function of the mean response, we model the subject's actual lesion counts. This model is an extension of the Poisson autoregressive model of order 1, where the autoregressive parameter is taken to be a function of treatment as well as other covariates to induce different dispersions and correlations for the two treatment arms. We conclude with a discussion about model selection. Published in 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.