Developments in genome-wide association studies and the increasing availability of summary genetic association data have made application of Mendelian randomization relatively straightforward. However, obtaining reliable results from a Mendelian randomization investigation remains problematic, as the conventional inverse-variance weighted method only gives consistent estimates if all of the genetic variants in the analysis are valid instrumental variables. We present a novel weighted median estimator for combining data on multiple genetic variants into a single causal estimate. This estimator is consistent even when up to 50% of the information comes from invalid instrumental variables. In a simulation analysis, it is shown to have better finite-sample Type 1 error rates than the inverse-variance weighted method, and is complementary to the recently proposed MR-Egger (Mendelian randomization-Egger) regression method. In analyses of the causal effects of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol on coronary artery disease risk, the inverse-variance weighted method suggests a causal effect of both lipid fractions, whereas the weighted median and MR-Egger regression methods suggest a null effect of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol that corresponds with the experimental evidence. Both median-based and MR-Egger regression methods should be considered as sensitivity analyses for Mendelian randomization investigations with multiple genetic variants.
Keywords: Egger regression; Mendelian randomization; instrumental variables; pleiotropy; robust statistics.
© 2016 The Authors. *Genetic Epidemiology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.