By invitation only, 300 Canadian doctors have a chance to earn $6,600 on top of their usual public health-care fees by taking part in some research.
Here’s what they have to do: sign up 12 high-risk heart patients, see each of them three times as part of normal practice, and fill out forms describing what drugs were prescribed.
The doctors get an additional $500 for attending a three-hour information session about the research. It’s called the Guidelines Oriented Approach to Lipid Lowering (GOAL). And it is one example of how doctors receive money from outside the public system, often from the pharmaceutical industry.
GOAL is funded by Amgen, a pharmaceutical company. But it’s being conducted by a private research organization called the Canadian Heart Research Centre, which is chaired by Dr. Anatoly Langer. He designed the program and applied to Amgen for funding.
GOAL’s objective is to monitor whether doctors are following new guidelines when treating high-risk heart patients whose LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) remains high despite taking commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins.
‘You could not get a committee in Canada with no conflicts of interest.’
— Dr. Todd Anderson
If doctors follow the guidelines, they could put patients on additional drugs, potentially including a new one made by Amgen, called Repatha, which costs about $8,000 per year and is not covered by public drug plans.
Apart from the funding, Langer says Amgen has no further involvement in the program. The research is approved by independent ethics review boards, and the fees to the doctors are modest by industry standards, he says.
The company calls GOAL an “investigator initiated study” conducted by independent researchers.
“Amgen only supports these studies following a medical review to determine scientific merit,” the company said in a statement to CBC News. It referred all questions to Langer.
Langer calls GOAL a…