Is the NIH Consensus Development Program?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Consensus Development Program organizes major conferences that produce
evidence-based consensus statements addressing controversial issues in
medicine important to health care providers, patients, and the general
public. NIH consensus statements are disseminated widely to
practitioners, health care policymakers, patients, the general public,
and the media. The NIH Office of Medical Applications of Research has
administered the program since its inception in 1977.
is this different from other conferences or meetings?
Most other scientific and medical
conferences rely on content experts to make recommendations, however,
this raises the possibility of potential conflicts of interest given the
expert's financial and career ties to the topic.
In contrast, the Consensus Development Program conferences are an
independent look at the issues from an unbiased panel. In fact,
the conferences are run on a "court model".
The panel members are like judges - they have no conflicts of interest,
financial or career interests related to the topic. They are highly
regarded in their own fields but are not closely aligned with the
There is an in depth presentation of evidence to the panel. This
evidence includes the Systematic Literature Review prepared by the Agency
for Healthcare Research and Quality, a complete review and synthesis
of published information. In addition, recognized experts on
the topic give presentations to the panel and audience.
Finally, periods of testimonial input from the general public are
invited. The panel takes this all into consideration in a
"sequestered" period and renders its recommendations in their
Is an NIH Consensus or State-of-the-Science Statement?
An NIH consensus statement is a report
evaluating state-of-the-science scientific information on a given
biomedical or public health intervention with the purpose of resolving a
particular controversial issue in clinical practice. Each NIH consensus
statement answers a series of four to six questions concerning efficacy,
risk, and clinical applications and recommends directions for future
research. An NIH consensus statement is the product of an NIH Consensus
writes an NIH Consensus or State-of-the-Science Statement?
NIH consensus statements are written by
broad-based, independent panels of nonadvocate individuals knowledgeable
in the field of medical or public health science under consideration.
The makeup of each panel represents various sectors of professional and
community life and typically includes research investigators, health
care providers, methodologists, and a public representative.
Following 1½ days of scientific
presentations and public testimony during the Consensus Development
Conference sessions, the panel convenes in an executive session to write
the draft consensus statement. On the third and final day of the
conference, the statement is circulated to the conference audience for
comment. The panel resolves any conflicting recommendations and releases
a revised statement at the end of the conference. A consensus statement
is not a policy statement of NIH or the Federal Government.
is the difference between a Consensus Conference and a
Consensus conferences are undertaken where
there is a strong body of higher quality evidence (randomized trials,
well designed observational studies) and it is reasonable to expect that
the panel will be able to give clinical direction.
State-of-the-Science conferences are used in cases where the
evidence base is weaker and the sponsoring NIH Institute or Center (IC)
is seeking the panel's opinion on future research and priorities.
frequently does NIH issue Consensus or State-of-the-Science Statements?
NIH issues an average of three to five
Consensus or State-of-the-Science statements each year.
often are the Consensus and State-of-the-Science Statements reviewed?
The statements are not reviewed once they are
released in their final form. It is important to recognize that each
Consensus or State-of-the-Science Statement reflects an independent
panel's assessment of the medical knowledge available at the time the
statement was written and as such, it provides a "snapshot in
time" of the state of knowledge on the conference topic. In the
period following a statement's release, new knowledge is inevitably
accumulating through medical research. For this reason, statements more
than five years old are deemed "historical," as information
contained in them is likely to be out of date. Historical statements may
continue to be useful to the research community as a reference for
understanding what was known about a topic at a particular point in
time, including whether gaps in research identified at the time of each
conference have since been filled. It is for this purpose that
historical conference statements will remain available on-line
indefinitely, but will no longer be distributed in booklet form by the
Consensus Program Information Center.
On rare occasions, a conference topic is
revisited, when it is determined that newly available data warrant a
second conference and statement on the same or similar subject matter.
Examples of this occurring in recent years include Antenatal
Corticosteroids Revisited: Repeat Courses, held in 2000, and Management
of Hepatitis C: 2002.
are NIH Consensus or State-of-the-Science conference topics selected?
Topics for NIH Consensus Development
Conferences address a wide range of subjects and may be suggested by an
Institute or Center within NIH, by other Government agencies, by
Congress, or by the public. For an issue to qualify as a Consensus
Development Conference topic, three main criteria must be met:
(1) Public health importance (2)
Controversy or a gap between current knowledge and practice (3) An
adequately defined and available base of scientific information Once a
topic is chosen, the date for the conference usually is set 12 to 14
months away. The scheduling of the conference date can be influenced by
a variety of factors, however, that ultimately determine when the chosen
topic will be addressed.
suggest a topic?
When the Office of Medical Applications
of Research receives a topic suggestion from outside the Institute we
contact an appropriate Institute or Center within NIH to speak with the
person making the suggestion for further consideration. Ultimately it is
the decision of the Institute or Center in discussion with their
leadership whether to pursue or not pursue a topic.
do NIH Consensus or State-of-the-Science Statements differ from clinical
NIH consensus statements synthesize new
information, largely from recent or ongoing medical research, that has
implications for reevaluation of routine medical practices. They do not
give specific algorithms or guidelines for practice. Such policy
decisions often depend on cost, available expertise and technology, and
local practice circumstances.
can I get NIH Consensus or State-of-the-Science Statements and other
NIH Consensus or State-of-the-Science
statements and related program materials are available by writing to the
NIH Consensus Development Program Information Center, P.O. Box 2577,
Kensington, Maryland 20891; by calling toll free 1 888 NIH-CONSENSUS
(1-888-644-2667); or by visiting the NIH Consensus Development Program
Web site at http://consensus.nih.gov.
much does it cost to register?
Our conferences are free
and open to the public, space permitting. You can preregister for a
conference online at http://consensus.nih.gov.
If unable to attend in person, the conference is webcast live and can be
accessed on the days of the conference at http://consensus.nih.gov.
my organization sponsor or financially contribute to the conference?
Although we appreciate the offer, in
order to keep the conferences independent we do not accept contributions
in support of the conference.
can it be independent when it is being run by NIH? Can't NIH be biased?
The Office of Medical Applications of
Research at NIH conducts the program , however OMAR has no content
expertise, granting or contracting authority with respect to the topics.
It is OMAR's job to maintain the integrity of the process. To avoid the
potential influence of the sponsoring IC on the process the IC is kept
separated from the panel during the process thus maintaining the panel
I get a DVD of the proceedings?
We do not prepare DVDs of the conference,
however the conference is webcast live and the webcast is archived on
our site at http://consensus.nih.gov
for later viewing.
there a period of public comment after the conference?
No, public comment is closed on the final
day of the conference when the panel retires to its final executive
session. If you have a statement or materials you would like sent to the
panel before the conference please contact our office and will do
our best to get your material to the panel.
I distribute materials at the conference?
We have a table available for
participants who want to share materials with other audience members.
The materials are kept separate from NIH and federal materials as it is
necessary for NIH, as a federal agency, to not appear to endorse any
particular product or viewpoint.
the content on the NIH Website copyrighted or free to use?
Most of the information on our site is in
the public domain and can be used without charge or restriction. There
are a few exceptions. For example, some resources, such as the
interactive health tutorials found on NIH's National Library of Medicine
Website are restricted in their use. Copyrighted materials will include
a copyright statement. Another item restricted in its use is the NIH
logo. Our logo should not be used to misrepresent our agency nor should
it be used to suggest we endorse any private organization, product, or
service. Also, some materials that can be ordered from our site are
subject to cost-recovery fee; however, in most cases, a single copy of
any NIH publication can be ordered for free. While you can reuse content
found on our site, please note that many of our on-line health
publications are updated as we learn more about that specific disease or
condition. Occasionally, we see sites that copy and re-post our
materials but fail to check for updates, which results in out-of-date
information being offered to users. For that reason, we urge you to link
to our resource documents rather than re-posting. If you do re-post,
please check back periodically to see if there are revisions.
the NIH link to my Website?
As a Federal agency, NIH cannot endorse
or promote commercial or individual interests or services. In some
cases, where the information serves the public good and is consistent
with our mission, we may include an outside link to an external
resource; however these need to be examined on a case-by-case basis. In
general, the web developer of each particular site determines when links
to outside entities are justified.
can I get the Systematic Literature Review prepared by the Agency for
Healthcare Research and Quality?
Systematic Literature Review is posted on the last day of the
conference as is the panels statement.