Objectives To investigate whether an authorship effect is found that leads to better performance in studies conducted by the original developers of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (allegiant studies).
Design Systematic review with random effects bivariate diagnostic meta-analysis. Search strategies included electronic databases, examination of reference lists and forward citation searches.
Inclusion criteria Included studies provided sufficient data to calculate the diagnostic accuracy of the PHQ-9 against a gold standard diagnosis of major depression using the algorithm or the summed item scoring method at cut-off point 10.
Data extraction Descriptive information, methodological quality criteria and 2×2 contingency tables.
Results Seven allegiant and 20 independent studies reported the diagnostic performance of the PHQ-9 using the algorithm scoring method. Pooled diagnostic OR (DOR) for the allegiant group was 64.40, and 15.05 for non-allegiant studies group. The allegiance status was a significant predictor of DOR variation (p<0.0001).
Five allegiant studies and 26 non-allegiant studies reported the performance of the PHQ-9 at recommended cut-off point of 10. Pooled DOR for the allegiant group was 49.31, and 24.96 for the non-allegiant studies. The allegiance status was a significant predictor of DOR variation (p=0.015).
Some potential alternative explanations for the observed authorship effect including differences in study characteristics and quality were found, although it is not clear how some of them account for the observed differences.
Conclusions Allegiant studies reported better performance of the PHQ-9. Allegiance status was predictive of variation in the DOR. Based on the observed differences between independent and non-independent studies, we were unable to conclude or exclude that allegiance effects are present in studies examining the diagnostic performance of the PHQ-9. This study highlights the need for future meta-analyses of diagnostic validation studies of psychological measures to evaluate the impact of researcher allegiance in the primary studies.
- diagnostic meta-analysis
- allegiance effect
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Contributors LM led on all stages of the review and is the guarantor. We used an established database of diagnostic validation studies of the PHQ-9 (Manea et al., 2015; Moriarty et al., 2015). SG provided expert advice on methodology and approaches to assessment of the evidence base. AM carried out the literature searches, screened the studies, extracted data and assessed the quality of the included studies for one of the systematic reviews (Moriarty et al., 2015). LM carried out the literature searches, screened the studies, extracted data and assessed the quality of the included studies for the other systematic review (Manea et al., 2015), analysed the data for both systematic reviews and drafted the report. JB involved in the development of the study, wrote the introduction section of the review and contributed to the production of the final report. DM supervised the quality assessment, methodology and approaches to evidence synthesis, provided senior advice and supported throughout and contributed to the production of the final report. All parties were involved in drafting and/or commenting on the report.
Funding LM was an NIHR Clinical Lecturer when this research was carried out. The NIHR had no role in the study design, methods, data collection, analysis or interpretation of data, nor any role in the preparation of the manuscript or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available.
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