The Predictive Approaches to Treatment effect Heterogeneity (PATH) Statement

Ann Intern Med. 2020 Jan 7;172(1):35-45. doi: 10.7326/M18-3667. Epub 2019 Nov 12.


Heterogeneity of treatment effect (HTE) refers to the nonrandom variation in the magnitude or direction of a treatment effect across levels of a covariate, as measured on a selected scale, against a clinical outcome. In randomized controlled trials (RCTs), HTE is typically examined through a subgroup analysis that contrasts effects in groups of patients defined "1 variable at a time" (for example, male vs. female or old vs. young). The authors of this statement present guidance on an alternative approach to HTE analysis, "predictive HTE analysis." The goal of predictive HTE analysis is to provide patient-centered estimates of outcome risks with versus without the intervention, taking into account all relevant patient attributes simultaneously. The PATH (Predictive Approaches to Treatment effect Heterogeneity) Statement was developed using a multidisciplinary technical expert panel, targeted literature reviews, simulations to characterize potential problems with predictive approaches, and a deliberative process engaging the expert panel. The authors distinguish 2 categories of predictive HTE approaches: a "risk-modeling" approach, wherein a multivariable model predicts the risk for an outcome and is applied to disaggregate patients within RCTs to define risk-based variation in benefit, and an "effect-modeling" approach, wherein a model is developed on RCT data by incorporating a term for treatment assignment and interactions between treatment and baseline covariates. Both approaches can be used to predict differential absolute treatment effects, the most relevant scale for clinical decision making. The authors developed 4 sets of guidance: criteria to determine when risk-modeling approaches are likely to identify clinically important HTE, methodological aspects of risk-modeling methods, considerations for translation to clinical practice, and considerations and caveats in the use of effect-modeling approaches. The PATH Statement, together with its explanation and elaboration document, may guide future analyses and reporting of RCTs.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Decision Rules
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Models, Statistical
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome*