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Observational studies including time-varying treatments are prone to confounding. We compared time-varying Cox regression analysis, propensity score (PS) methods, and marginal structural models (MSMs) in a study of antidepressant [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)] use and the risk of hip fracture.A cohort of patients with a first prescription for antidepressants (SSRI or tricyclic antidepressants) was extracted from the Dutch Mondriaan and Spanish Base de datos para la Investigación Farmacoepidemiológica en Atención Primaria (BIFAP) general practice databases for the period 2001-2009. The net (total) effect of SSRI versus no SSRI on the risk of hip fracture was estimated using time-varying Cox regression, stratification and covariate adjustment using the PS, and MSM. In MSM, censoring was accounted for by inverse probability of censoring weights.The crude hazard ratio (HR) of SSRI use versus no SSRI use on hip fracture was 1.75 (95%CI: 1.12, 2.72) in Mondriaan and 2.09 (1.89, 2.32) in BIFAP. After confounding adjustment using time-varying Cox regression, stratification, and covariate adjustment using the PS, HRs increased in Mondriaan [2.59 (1.63, 4.12), 2.64 (1.63, 4.25), and 2.82 (1.63, 4.25), respectively] and decreased in BIFAP [1.56 (1.40, 1.73), 1.54 (1.39, 1.71), and 1.61 (1.45, 1.78), respectively]. MSMs with stabilized weights yielded HR 2.15 (1.30, 3.55) in Mondriaan and 1.63 (1.28, 2.07) in BIFAP when accounting for censoring and 2.13 (1.32, 3.45) in Mondriaan and 1.66 (1.30, 2.12) in BIFAP without accounting for censoring.In this empirical study, differences between the different methods to control for time-dependent confounding were small. The observed differences in treatment effect estimates between the databases are likely attributable to different confounding information in the datasets, illustrating that adequate information on (time-varying) confounding is crucial to prevent bias.

Original publication




Journal article


Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety

Publication Date



25 Suppl 1


114 - 121


Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Humans, Hip Fractures, Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors, Antidepressive Agents, Proportional Hazards Models, Risk Factors, Regression Analysis, Pharmacoepidemiology, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Propensity Score