When you first sit down with NONMEM1, it can appear considerably arcane. The “Zen” of NONMEM is that you’re speaking a language called NM-TRAN2; and you need to grok3 NM-TRAN.

When you are writing a “model” in NONMEM, you are writing it in the language of NM-TRAN. The document you are writing in is a text file called a control stream, control file, or model file; it tells NONMEM what to do. By convention this text file has the file extension .mod or .ctl. The NM-TRAN document is built up from different “chapters” that all start with the $ sign (eg $ESTIMATION), these “chapters” are called control records (see all control record listed below!).

Within some control records4 you can write so called abbreviated code. Within these control records, you can either assign a value to a variable (variable = value), or use IF, THEN, ELSE, ELSEIF, ENDIF, DO WHILE, ENDDO, CALL, WRITE, PRINT, RETURN, OPEN, CLOSE, REWIND.

There are a couple ways to write a model in NM-TRAN. One option is to use templates of common models, from the built-in NONMEM library called PREDPP (speficied in the $SUBROUTINES control record using different ADVANs). Although, the templates are not needed since it is possible to write the model “from scratch”. Writing a model from scratch can be done in two ways: • Using $DES (“Differential Equation System”)
• Generally when you are using compartments
• Differential equations
• “Numerical” solution
• Using $PRED (“PREDiction”) • Generally when you are not using compartments (eg for some categorical data models) • Algebraic equations • “Closed form” or “analytical” solution Some models can be written using both of these approaches with identical results. A model normally contain the following control records, in the following order: $PROBLEM
$INPUT $DATA

then, either

$PRED or $SUBROUTINE
$MODEL $PK
$DES $ERROR (the name is totally misleading. Rather think of it as $RESULT) then, $THETA
$OMEGA $SIGMA
$ESTIMATION $COVARIANCE
$TABLE As can be seen in the $PRED example below, the $PK/$DES/$ERROR records are all replaced by $PRED.

A very simple example of a $DES control stream: $PROB One Compartment Bolus, Volume and Clearance
$DATA data.csv$INPUT
ID
conc = DV
DOSE
$SUBROUTINE ADVAN13 TOL=9$MODEL COMP(CENTRAL,DEFDOSE)
$PK V = THETA(1) * EXP(ETA(1)) ; volume CL = THETA(2) * EXP(ETA(2)) ; clearance K = CL / V$DES
$ERROR Y = A(1) / V * (1 + EPS(1))$THETA
70
6
$OMEGA 0.9 0.9$SIGMA
0.1
$ESTIMATION SIGDIG=3 MAXEVALS=99999 PRINT=1$TABLE ID

A very simple example of a $PRED control stream: $PROB One Compartment Bolus, Volume and Clearance
$DATA data.csv$INPUT
ID
conc = DV
DOSE
$PRED V = THETA(1) * EXP(ETA(1)) ; volume CL = THETA(2) * EXP(ETA(2)) ; clearance C = 1 / V ; Coefficient, calculated from the volume term L = CL / V Y = DOSE * C * EXP(-L * TIME) * (1 + EPS(1))$THETA
70
6
$OMEGA 0.9 0.9$SIGMA
0.1
$ESTIMATION SIGDIG=3 MAXEVALS=99999 PRINT=1$TABLE ID

## Alphabetic list of Control Records

$ABBREVIATED Provides instructions about abbreviated code $AES
Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the AES routine

$AESINITIAL Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the AES routine $ANNEAL
Sets starting diagonal Omega values to facilitate EM search methods

$BIND Define data values used by $PK, $DES, and $AES

$CHAIN Supplies initial estimates for an entire problem $CONTR
Defines values for certain user-supplied routines

$COVARIANCE, $COVR
Instructions for NONMEM Covariance Step

$DATA Describes the NM-TRAN data set $DEFAULT
Specifies certain defaults for NONMEM

$DES Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the DES routine $DESIGN
Instructions for Clinical Trial Design Evaluation and Optimization

$ERROR Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the ERROR routine $ESTIMATION, $ESTM Instructions for the NONMEM Estimation Step $ETAS, $PHIS Specifies Initial Values for Etas or Phis $FORMAT
Specifies significant digits for the NONMEM report file

$INDEX, $INDXS
Defines values for the PRED/PREDPP INDXS array

$INFN Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the INFN routine $INPUT
Defines the data item types in the data set

$LEVEL Specifies Nested Random Levels Above Subject ID $MIX
Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the MIX routine

$MODEL Specifies the MODEL subroutine of PREDPP $MSFI
Gives the name of an input Model Specification File

$NONPARAMETRIC Instructions for the NONMEM Nonparametric Step $OLKJDF
Specifies LKJ decorrelation degrees of freedom for each OMEGA block

$OMEGA Supplies initial estimates for the NONMEM OMEGA Matrix $OMEGAP, $OMEGAPD Gives prior information for omegas $OMIT
Defines data item types to be excluded from template matching when raw data averages are computed

$OVARF Specifies the weighting to the standard deviations of OMEGA $PK
Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the PK Routine

$PRED Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the PRED routine $PRIOR
Provides instructions for the PRIOR subroutine

$PROBLEM Identifies the start of a NONMEM Problem Specification $RCOV, $RCOVI Inputting Variance-Covariance information from another problem $SCATTERPLOT
Requests that NONMEM generate one or more scatterplots

$SIGMA Supplies initial estimates for the NONMEM SIGMA Matrix $SIGMAP, $SIGMAPD Gives prior information for sigmas $SIMULATION
Instructions for the NONMEM Simulation Step

$SIZES Array sizes for NONMEM and PREDPP $SLKJDF
Specifies LKJ decorrelation degrees of freedom for each SIGMA block

$SUBROUTINES Lists certain subroutine choices for the NONMEM Executable $SUPER
Identifies the start of a NONMEM Superproblem

$SVARF Specifies the weighting to the standard deviations of SIGMA $TABLE
Requests that NONMEM generate a table

$THETA Gives initial estimates and bounds for thetas $THETAI
Gives Instructions for Transforming Initial Thetas

$THETAP, $THETAPV
Gives prior information for thetas

$THETAR Gives Instructions for Transforming Final Thetas $TOL
Marks the beginning of abbreviated code for the TOL routine

$TTDF Specifies t-distribution degrees of freedom for theta $WARNINGS
Control Display of NM-TRAN Warning, Data Warning and Data Error messages

## Possible NM-TRAN control records with PRED

$PROBLEM $INPUT
$INDEX $CONTR
$DATA $SUBROUTINES
$ABBREVIATED $PRED*
$THETA $OMEGA
$SIGMA $MFSI
$SIMULATION $ESTIMATION
$COVARIANCE $TABLE
$SCATTERPLOT ## Possible NM-TRAN control records with PPRED $PROBLEM
$INPUT $BIND*
$INDEX $CONTR
$DATA $SUBROUTINES
$MODEL* $ABBREVIATED
$PK* $ERROR*
$DES* $AESINITIAL*
$AES* $TOL*
$THETA $OMEGA
$SIGMA $MFSI
$SIMULATION $ESTIMATION
$COVARIANCE $TABLE
$SCATTERPLOT 1. NONlinear Mixed Effects Modeling↩︎ 2. NONMEM translator↩︎ 3. To grok something is “to understand intuitively or by empathy, to establish rapport with” and “to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment”.↩︎ 4. $PRED, $PK, $ERROR, $DES, $AES, $AESINITIAL, $TOL, $MIX, and $INFN↩︎

Posted on:
October 31, 2022
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