Some people make thousands of dollars each year by gambling inside an MRI machine, getting tested for allergies, or trying out new vaccines. In many cases, they do this kind of “work” on weekends or around their work schedules -- and it doesn’t require any special skills or education.
What are these lucrative opportunities?
They’re clinical and research trials of new drugs, devices or medical interventions.
Companies run these trials on human test subjects in order to determine the safety and efficacy of their products. Each year thousands of willing human “guinea pigs” undergo some poking, prodding or dosing to help gauge whether these medications or medical procedures work. In exchange, these test subjects are compensated with a good deal of cash.
Here’s what you need to know before signing up to become one of these human guinea pigs -- and where to find the opportunities.
Most trials study the effect of a medication, device or medical intervention on a particular condition, from acne to high cholesterol to cancer. Even if you don’t have the particular disease or condition that the trial is analyzing, you could still qualify for the study as a control (healthy) subject.
Generally speaking, healthy volunteers should be between 18 and 60 years old with no history of major diseases or medication issues, though on occasion researchers look for healthy children for specific studies. You may need to undergo preliminary testing to ensure that you don’t react to a particular treatment, and women often must pass a pregnancy test to demonstrate that they’re not pregnant during the study.
Clinical trial payouts vary depending on the duration and invasiveness of the procedures -- the “ouch factor” plays a big part in your earnings. For example, it’s quite easy to try out a new allergy medication over the course of two months while otherwise going about your life, so you might only earn several hundred bucks.
However, completing 57 blood draws during one five-day inpatient stay and several additional visits over the course of seven months while testing a high cholesterol treatment could earn you as much as $8,800. (Click to tweet this idea.)
Most clinical trials are divided into Phase I, II or III studies. Phase I studies assess the safety of a particular medical intervention, while Phase II studies investigate the efficacy of the treatment. Phase III studies are typically expanded versions of Phase II protocols and test the experimental treatment on a larger batch of human test subjects.
Keep in mind that while most drugs in Phase I trials have already been pre-qualified through cell culture and animal testing, they have not yet been tested on humans. Therefore, if you’re concerned about suffering any adverse effects from an experimental medication or treatment, be sure to sign up for Phase II and III trials only.
Here are seven places to look for information about clinical and medical trials in the United States and abroad, as well as trial listings:
CenterWatch lists a number of different clinical trials for conditions ranging from acne to narcolepsy to warts, as well as separate category for studies looking for healthy patients. The trials are conducted at a variety of centers scattered across the U.S.
The Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation offers a free email or regular mail notification service for individuals looking to participate in clinical trials. The site will also send you information on what a typical clinical trial entails and the questions you should ask before participating. CISCRP is a great resource if you’re a clinical trial newbie.
This site, run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), lists all kinds of national and international clinical trials. Search for studies by type and location or browse studies by the condition they focus on.
This site, run by drug development company Covance, features clinical studies in the US. and U.K. Its studies pay well; an ongoing study on individuals with elevated cholesterol pays $8,800, while a healthy subject aged 18 to 45 could earn $5,800. In most cases, these studies last several weeks or months and require several overnight stays as well as outpatient visits.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) maintains a detailed database of clinical trials occurring across 25 states. This database provides information about new investigational drugs, the companies developing them, and the centers (e.g., universities and hospitals) conducting the actual trials.
Foundations dedicated to particular conditions or diseases often list available clinical trials. For example, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America shares almost 500 clinical trials occurring across the U.S. The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration lists dementia-specific clinical trials currently recruiting participants.
Don’t forget to check out your local medical and educational centers for smaller and less publicized research studies. Often, you’ll find study notifications pinned to a department’s bulletin board or noted on its website.
Your Turn: Have you participated in a research study? How did it go?
Halina Zakowicz participated in many research and clinical trials while surviving as a poor graduate student. You can learn more about her money-earning tips at I’ve Tried That.