A method of decision analysis quantifying the effects of age and comorbidities on the probability of deriving significant benefit from medical treatments

Stephen P. Fitzgerald, Nigel G. Bean, Ravi P. Ruberu


Background: The external validity, or generalizability, of trials and guidelines has been considered poor in the context of multiple morbidity. How multiple morbidity might affect the magnitude of benefit of a given treatment, and thereby external validity, has had little study. Objective: To provide a method of decision analysis to quantify the effects of age and comorbidity on the probability of deriving a given magnitude of treatment benefit. Design: We developed a method to calculate probabilistically the effect of all of a patient’s comorbidities on their underlying utility, or well-being, at a future time point. From this, we derived a distribution of possible magnitudes of treatment benefit at that future time point. We then expressed this distribution as the probability of deriving at least a given magnitude of treatment benefit. To demonstrate the applicability of this method of decision analysis, we applied it to the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia in a geriatric population of 50 individuals. We highlighted the results of four of these individuals. Results: This method of analysis provided individualized quantifications of the effect of age and comorbidity on the probability of treatment benefit. The average probability of deriving a benefit, of at least 50% of the magnitude of benefit available to an individual without comorbidity, was only 0.77%. Conclusion: The effects of age and comorbidity on the probability of deriving significant treatment benefits can be quantified for any individual. Even without consideration of other factors affecting external validity, these effects may be sufficient to guide decision-making.

Journal of Comorbidity 2017;7(1):50–63


aging, comorbidity, probability, quality-adjusted life years, treatment outcome, external validity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15256/joc.2017.7.93


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    ISSN 2235-042X