As government continues to push for physician/pharma payment transparency, and regulations come to pass forcing pharma to disclose how much it gives doctors, one wonders when someone will look into payments to clinical trial investigators?
Cutting Edge Information reached out to 58 pharma companies engaged in US-based payments to investigators, and requested post-study data from completed trials. Last week, the company released a hefty study documenting the cost in compensation that pharma companies pay for clinical trial investigators, based on experience, disease state, and expected return.
Whatâ€™s the most costly investigator to hire? Try Phase IIIb investigators in autoimmune disease, where the paycheck is close to $60,000 per trial. Oncology investigators also take home a sizable paycheck, according to the report.
â€œWeâ€™ve done a lot of research on the other side of this coinâ€”compensation levels for physicians for commercial activitiesâ€”and have focused on scrutiny coming from OIG and FDA,â€ said Jordan Stone, research analyst at Cutting Edge. â€œBasically, we wanted to see if there was any focus on fair market value and ethical payments for investigators.
â€œWe were a little surprised at the difference between what the pharma companies said they paid and what investigators said they received,â€ Stone noted.
For example, the report stated that: â€œFor a Phase I trial, companies budget an average $24,311 for primary investigator compensation. The investigators, however, reportedly receive an average of only $16,016â€”32 percent less than what drug and device manufacturers allocate.â€
Cutting Edge believes that if pharma companies knew how much of their budget is actually going to investigators, they would have more leverage to negotiate better contracts with their contract research organizations. Stone also said that many companies arenâ€™t tuned in to the regulatory rumblings on the clinical side, and expect to fly under the radar by following good practices.
And yet, â€œ[Pharma firms] donâ€™t take the same view as a regulator, where itâ€™s not a matter of how pharma companies pay investigators, but proving transparently and unequivocally that all payments are for the work performed and that they werenâ€™t overpaid based on fair market value,â€ Stone said.
Cutting Edge acknowledged that because this is its first study in this area there are no comparative data detailing the rising or falling costs of hiring investigators.