Hoaglin DC, Hawkins N, Jansen JP, Scott DA, Itzler R, Cappelleri JC, et al. Conducting indirect-treatment- comparison and network-meta-analysis studies: Report of the ISPOR Task Force on Indirect Treatment Comparisons Good Research Practices: part 2. Value Health. 2011;14(4):429-37.
Evidence-based health care decision making requires comparison of all relevant competing interventions. In the absence of randomized controlled trials involving a direct comparison of all treatments of interest, indirect treatment comparisons and network meta-analysis provide useful evidence for judiciously selecting the best treatment(s). Mixed treatment comparisons, a special case of network meta-analysis, combine direct evidence and indirect evidence for particular pairwise comparisons, thereby synthesizing a greater share of the available evidence than traditional meta-analysis. This report from the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research Indirect Treatment Comparisons Good Research Practices Task Force provides guidance on technical aspects of conducting network meta-analyses (our use of this term includes most methods that involve meta-analysis in the context of a network of evidence). We start with a discussion of strategies for developing networks of evidence. Next we briefly review assumptions of network meta-analysis. Then we focus on the statistical analysis of the data: objectives, models (fixed-effects and random-effects), frequentist versus Bayesian approaches, and model validation. A checklist highlights key components of network meta-analysis, and substantial examples illustrate indirect treatment comparisons (both frequentist and Bayesian approaches) and network meta-analysis. A further section discusses eight key areas for future research.