I did my first clinical trial a few years after I quit my corporate career and became self employed. I had been earning extra cash by participating in marketing research studies and focus groups: testing sandwiches, eating cookies, smelling cleaning products. When I ended up on a list of potential clinical trial test subjects, it never occurred to me to say no.
It sounds a little scary, but it’s actually an easy way to earn extra cash. If you’ve ever considered participating in a clinical trial, here are a few things you should know.
You Must Pre-qualify
I had been trying to figure out the logistics of paying my heating bill when I got a call asking me if I wanted to participate in a clinical trial to test a new antiviral drug. I met the requirements–no health issues, non-smoker, right age. When they asked if I would stay two weekends at their facility, I hesitated, then said yes, mostly because it paid $800.
Some Trials Require Inpatient Stays
The Phoenix International facility was on property that once housed a small psychiatric hospital. I was one of about 50 subjects checking in that Saturday morning. They weighed me, measured me, and gave me a brief physical. Had they detected a problem, they would have paid me $100. and sent me home.
There Will be Plenty of Paperwork
I reviewed and signed a thick contract that explained the trial, the companies, my duties, and the rules. It also contained a hold harmless/indemnification clause. That meant that I voluntarily gave up my right to sue in the event of any injury.
You Must do What They Tell You to do
After I completed my paperwork, a nurse snapped on a wrist band with my test subject number and escorted me to a row of college dorm style rooms. Once all the subjects were settled in, white-jacketed personnel summoned us to the common area and reviewed the rules.
- Eat all of your food
- Anyone caught smoking will be sent home
- Immediately line up by number when called
- Medication once a day – maybe placebos, maybe not
- Blood draws – four times a day, one at about 1:00 am
- No leaving the facility until Monday morning.
You’ll Have to Give Blood
I was the lady with “bad veins,” too small to give up blood without a lot of poking and prodding. When my number came up, they would sit me in the corner until the “butterfly” guy came in. That was the staff phlebotomist who was skilled enough to use a little device to get blood without hurting me.
You’ll Have to Complete the Trial to Get Paid
For my inpatient study, my sole responsibilities were showing up, eating, sleeping, and lining up numerically when called. I took a total of 8 pills and gave about a half pint of blood. For that I earned the original $800. plus an extra $100. for returning for a supplemental blood draw.
When I did outpatient trials, I had a lot more responsibilities: taking medication on time, completing logs, checking in by phone, returning for appointments and blood work. If I missed anything, I ran the risk of not getting paid.
Clinical Trials Aren’t for Everyone
If the idea of testing drugs sounds a little scary, you shouldn’t do it. But if you want to find a test facility near you, try searching online or in the yellow pages. Some companies advertise via radio, television ads, and in local print media.