There are now several different approaches to perform a network meta-analysis or mixed treatment comparison.

The most commonly used and accessible ones are probably the following:

*in a Bayesian framework*:- design-by-treatment interaction approach in WinBUGS (eg Jackson et al);
- hierarchical arm-based Bayesian modeling in WinBUGS (eg Zhao et al);
- hierarchical contrast-based (i.e. node-splitting) Bayesian modeling, either with WinBUGS or through
`gemtc`

and`rjags`

in R (eg Dias et al or van Valkenhoef et al); - integrated nested Laplace approximations (INLA) in WinBUGS (eg Sauter et al);

*in a frequentist framework*:- factorial analysis-of-variance in SAS (eg Piepho);
- multilevel network meta-analysis in SAS (eg Greco et al);
- multivariate meta-regression with
`mvmeta`

in

Stata or R (eg White et al); - network meta-analysis with
`lme`

and`netmeta`

in R (eg Lumley, which is however limited to two-arm trials, or Rucker et al).

My question is, simply: are they roughly equivalent or is there one which is preferable in most cases for the primary analysis (thus reserving the others for ancillary ones)?

UPDATE

Over the time, there have been some comparative analyses on methods for network meta-analysis:

**Contents**hide

#### Best Answer

I think, the modeling approaches and estimation techniques should be viewed seperately. From modeling point of view, Lumley model only works for two-arm trials only. So it is not preferable. To my understanding, node-splitting approach, which you listed as Dias et al, is very intuitive. Also, I think you should add the design-by-treatment interaction approach (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24777711). From estimation point of view, I dont know much about frequentist techniques, but one can use MCMC for almost all models for NMA. Lastly, there is a different technique (which is not widely known unfortunately) called INLA. You can use INLA from within R and fit NMA models, it is faster and no need to check convergence diagnostics. Here is the paper http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26360927. So, at the end I would prefer node-splitting and the design-by-treatment interaction approach using INLA.

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