Inconsistent treatment estimates from mis‐specified logistic regression analyses of randomized trials


When the difference between treatments in a clinical trial is estimated by a difference in means, then it is well known that randomization ensures unbiassed estimation, even if no account is taken of important baseline covariates. However, when the treatment effect is assessed by other summaries, for example by an odds ratio if the outcome is binary, then bias can arise if some covariates are omitted, regardless of the use of randomization for treatment allocation or the size of the trial. We present accurate closed‐form approximations for this asymptotic bias when important normally distributed covariates are omitted from a logistic regression. We compare this approximation with ones in the literature and derive more convenient forms for some of these existing results. The expressions give insight into the form of the bias, which simulations show is usable for distributions other than the normal. The key result applies even when there are additional binary covariates in the model.

Statistics in Medicine 2015; 34(19):2681-2694
John Matthews
Professor of Medical Statistics