The rate of change in a continuous variable, measured serially over time, is often used as an outcome in longitudinal studies or clinical trials. When patients terminate the study before the scheduled end of the study, there is a potential for bias in estimation of rate of change using standard methods which ignore the missing data mechanism. These methods include the use of unweighted generalized estimating equations methods and likelihood-based methods assuming an ignorable missing data mechanism. We present a model for analysis of informatively censored data, based on an extension of the two-stage linear random effects model, where each subject's random intercept and slope are allowed to be associated with an underlying time to event. The joint distribution of the continuous responses and the time-to-event variable are then estimated via maximum likelihood using the EM algorithm, and using the bootstrap to calculate standard errors. We illustrate this methodology and compare it to simpler approaches and usual maximum likelihood using data from a multi-centre study of the effects of diet and blood pressure control on progression of renal disease, the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study. Sensitivity analyses and simulations are used to evaluate the performance of this methodology in the context of the MDRD data, under various scenarios where the drop-out mechanism is ignorable as well as non-ignorable.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.