European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 221–222 | Cite as

Theory meets practice: a commentary on VanderWeele’s ‘principles of confounder selection’

  • Sebastian SchneeweissEmail author

When I teach graduate students in pharmacoepidemiology they are well-trained by having taken multiple courses in epidemiologic methods and causal inference. I observe that many feel paralyzed when confronted with real data realizing that such data do not come with tags saying whether variables are common causes of the exposure and outcome or whether they are instrumental variables or colliders. How will they connect the concepts, rules, and exemptions they have learned studying causal inference to the reality of data? Tyler VanderWeele is to be applauded for having compassion with us who spend less time contemplating DAGs and still want to do non-experimental studies that lend themselves to causal conclusions. His pragmatic recommendations are actionable for a broad range of applications yet founded in principled considerations. I tried to put them to a test.

I am a pharmacoepidemiologist and study the safety and effectiveness of medications as they are used in routine care without the...



This work was funded partially by the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the FDA (HHSF223201710186C) and PCORI. This article reflects the views of the author and should not be construed to represent FDA’s views or policies.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

Dr. Schneeweiss is a consultant to WHISCON, LLC and to Aetion, Inc. of which he also owns equity. He is the principal investigator of Grants to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital from Bayer, Vertex, and Boehringer Ingelheim unrelated to the topic of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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