The number of Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses including large numbers of genetic variants is rapidly increasing. This is due to the proliferation of genome-wide association studies, and the desire to obtain more precise estimates of causal effects. Since it is unlikely that all genetic variants will be valid instrumental variables, several robust methods have been proposed. We compare nine robust methods for MR based on summary data that can be implemented using standard statistical software. Methods were compared in three ways: by reviewing their theoretical properties, in an extensive simulation study, and in an empirical example. In the simulation study, the best method, judged by mean squared error was the contamination mixture method. This method had well-controlled Type 1 error rates with up to 50% invalid instruments across a range of scenarios. Other methods performed well according to different metrics. Outlier-robust methods had the narrowest confidence intervals in the empirical example. With isolated exceptions, all methods performed badly when over 50% of the variants were invalid instruments. Our recommendation for investigators is to perform a variety of robust methods that operate in different ways and rely on different assumptions for valid inferences to assess the reliability of MR analyses.

causal inference, Mendelian randomization, pleiotropy, robust estimation, summary statistics,
Genetic Epidemiology
Erasmus School of Economics

Slob, E.A.W, & Burgess, S. (2020). A comparison of robust Mendelian randomization methods using summary data. Genetic Epidemiology. doi:10.1002/gepi.22295