AHRQ’s National Guideline Clearinghouse Has Gone Dark

Some see the loss of an important, unbiased source of information.

Guideline.gov went dark this week. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) said it’s looking for a partner that can carry on the work of NGC, but that effort hasn’t panned out yet, according a reporter for the Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project.

“AHRQ agrees that guidelines play an important role in clinical decision making, but hard decisions had to be made about how to use the resources at our disposal,” said AHRQ spokesperson Alison Hunt in an email to Campbell, whose story was posted on the Daily Beast website. The operating budget for the NGC last year was $1.2 million, Hunt said, and reductions in funding forced the agency’s hand.

The vetting role played by the NGC is a critical one, Roy Poses, with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, told the Campbell.

“Many guidelines are actually written mainly for commercial purposes or public relations purposes,” said Poses, and can be subtly shaped to promote a given course of treatment.

“The organizations writing the guidelines may be getting millions of dollars from big drug companies that want to promote a product. The people writing them may have similar conflicts of interest,” Poses said. NGC’s process provided a resource comparatively free of that kind of influence.

Vox also had a story about the closing of the clearinghouse website.

And here is the statement posted today on the AHRQ website:

Funding to support AHRQ's National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) ended on July 16, 2018.

The NGC was originally created in 1998 by AHRQ in partnership with the American Medical Association and the American Association of Health Plans (now America's Health Insurance Plans). This partnership ended in 2002. The contract that supports the NGC ends this month and funds are not available to continue support for the NGC.

AHRQ's decision to close the NGC has elicited significant feedback from the health care field, and the Agency appreciates the passionate support that users have expressed. AHRQ is exploring options to support the NGC in the future and will continue to do so even while the site remains offline.