What is Least Squares Means

This post is part of 'Statistics | General' series

In clinical trials, the primary outcome measure is often a continuous variable, such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels, which is used to assess the efficacy of a treatment. The least squares means (LS means) is a statistical method used to estimate the mean response for each treatment group after adjusting for the effects of other variables that may be related to the outcome.

For example, let's consider a clinical trial testing the efficacy of a new drug for reducing blood pressure. The trial randomly assigns patients to one of two treatment groups: Group A receiving the new drug and Group B receiving a placebo. The primary outcome measure is the change in systolic blood pressure (SBP) from baseline to 12 weeks of treatment.

In addition to treatment group, there may be other variables that could affect the response, such as age, gender, and baseline SBP. The LS means method accounts for these factors by adjusting the mean response for each treatment group for these covariates, which can help to reduce the bias and increase the precision of the estimates.

To calculate the LS means, a statistical model is first developed that includes the treatment group, the covariates, and their interactions. This model is then used to estimate the mean response for each treatment group, after adjusting for the effects of the covariates.

For example, suppose that the statistical model for the blood pressure trial includes treatment group, age, gender, and baseline SBP. The LS means estimate for the change in SBP from baseline to 12 weeks for Group A (the new drug) would be the estimated mean change in SBP for a patient in Group A, after adjusting for the effects of age, gender, and baseline SBP. The LS means estimate for Group B (the placebo) would be the estimated mean change in SBP for a patient in Group B, after adjusting for the effects of age, gender, and baseline SBP.

The LS means estimates can be used to compare the mean response between treatment groups and to estimate treatment effects, after adjusting for the effects of other variables. This can help to reduce the bias and increase the precision of the estimates, and can provide more accurate information about the efficacy of the treatment.