The issues and dangers involved in testing multiple hypotheses are well recognised within the pharmaceutical industry. In reporting clinical trials, strenuous efforts are taken to avoid the inflation of type I error, with procedures such as the Bonferroni adjustment and its many elaborations and refinements being widely employed. Typically, such methods are conservative. They tend to be accurate if the multiple test statistics involved are mutually independent and achieve less than the type I error rate specified if these statistics are positively correlated. An alternative approach is to estimate the correlations between the test statistics and to perform a test that is conditional on those estimates being the true correlations.
In this paper, we begin by assuming that test statistics are normally distributed and that their correlations are known. Under these circumstances, we explore several approaches to multiple testing, adapt them so that type I error is preserved exactly and then compare their powers over a range of true parameter values. For simplicity, the explorations are confined to the bivariate case. Having described the relative strengths and weaknesses of the approaches under study, we use simulation to assess the accuracy of the approximate theory developed when the correlations are estimated from the study data rather than being known in advance and when data are binary so that test statistics are only approximately normally distributed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.