Network meta-analysis expands the scope of a conventional pairwise meta-analysis to simultaneously compare multiple treatments, synthesizing both direct and indirect information and thus strengthening inference. Since most of trials only compare two treatments, a typical data set in a network meta-analysis managed as a trial-by-treatment matrix is extremely sparse, like an incomplete block structure with significant missing data. Zhang et al. proposed an arm-based method accounting for correlations among different treatments within the same trial and assuming that absent arms are missing at random. However, in randomized controlled trials, nonignorable missingness or missingness not at random may occur due to deliberate choices of treatments at the design stage. In addition, those undertaking a network meta-analysis may selectively choose treatments to include in the analysis, which may also lead to missingness not at random. In this paper, we extend our previous work to incorporate missingness not at random using selection models. The proposed method is then applied to two network meta-analyses and evaluated through extensive simulation studies. We also provide comprehensive comparisons of a commonly used contrast-based method and the arm-based method via simulations in a technical appendix under missing completely at random and missing at random.
Keywords: Bayesian hierarchical models; Network meta-analysis; nonignorable missingness; selection models.