A 'missing not at random' (MNAR) and 'missing at random' (MAR) growth model comparison with a buprenorphine/naloxone clinical trial

Sterling Mcpherson, Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Mary Rose Mamey, Michael Mcdonell, Craig K. Enders, John Roll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Aims: To compare three missing data strategies: (i) the latent growth model that assumes the data are missing at random (MAR) model; (ii) the Diggle-Kenward missing not at random (MNAR) model, where dropout is a function of previous/concurrent urinalysis (UA) submissions; and (iii) the Wu-Carroll MNAR model where dropout is a function of the growth factors. Design: Secondary data analysis of a National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network trial that examined a 7-day versus 28-day taper (i.e. stepwise decrease in buprenorphine/naloxone) on the likelihood of submitting an opioid-positive UA during treatment. Setting: 11 out-patient treatment settings in 10 US cities. Participants: A total of 516 opioid-dependent participants. Measurements: Opioid UAs provided across the 4-week treatment period. Findings: The MAR model showed a significant effect (B=-0.45, P<0.05) of trial arm on the opioid-positive UA slope (i.e. 28-day taper participants were less likely to submit a positive UA over time) with a small effect size (d=0.20). The MNAR Diggle-Kenward model demonstrated a significant (B=-0.64, P<0.01) effect of trial arm on the slope with a large effect size (d=0.82). The MNAR Wu-Carroll model showed a significant (B=-0.41, P<0.05) effect of trial arm on the UA slope that was relatively small (d=0.31). Conclusions: This performance comparison of three missing data strategies (latent growth model, Diggle-Kenward selection model, Wu-Carrol selection model) on sample data indicates a need for increased use of sensitivity analyses in clinical trial research. Given the potential sensitivity of the trial arm effect to missing data assumptions, it is critical for researchers to consider whether the assumptions associated with each model are defensible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Latent growth modeling
  • Longitudinal missing data
  • Missing not at random models
  • Randomized clinical trials
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Substance use disorder treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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