7 Things to Know Before You Join a Clinical Trial


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Clinical trials can earn you hundreds or even thousands. But they aren't necessarily easy to get into – or through. Here are some details from those in the industry.

Last week, we told you about 8 Weird Ways to Make Extra Money. One of them was this…

“Provided you qualify, participating in tests of new medicines and procedures can earn you up to a couple of thousand dollars.”

And how do you find a clinical trial near you? We recommended using this search tool from the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation, or CISCRP.

Well, CISCRP searched for us. They wanted to tell Money Talks News readers that clinical trials aren’t a quick cash-grab – and not all of them pay. Here’s what they emailed us…

Thank you for mentioning CISCRP in your recent article “8 Weird Ways to Make Extra Money.” Your mention has spurred a lot of interest in our organization and is helping us work with many people to educate and connect them with relevant clinical trials in their communities…

It is vital that people understand the pros and cons of participating in clinical trials to determine if participation is right for them.  I invite you to read our article (attached as a PDF) and share it with others.

This is the PDF they sent us, but here are the highlights…

  1. Compensation is reward for a risk. The benefits aren’t only financial. You’re likely to get care at leading facilities and new treatments that aren’t widely available. But the whole reason they’re testing new treatments is because they’re not sure what will happen – side effects can range from unpleasant to life-threatening.
  2. Read before you sign. The “informed consent document” provided by the researchers is important, so read it carefully. It explains the purpose and scope of the study, including how long it lasts, what’s involved, and the known potential risks and benefits. As ClinicalTrials.gov explains, “Informed consent is not a contract, and the participant may withdraw from the trial at any time.” But it’s best to know what you’re getting into beforehand.
  3. Your pay depends on the “phase.” How much a medicine or treatment has already been tested affects the chances that you’re going to get paid to test it. Of the four types of trial the CISCRP identifies – Phases I through IV – Phase I is the earliest, when the effects and outcome are least understood. It’s also the kind most likely to pay – 85 percent of the time, the CISCRP says.
  4. Earlier the better. Early trials are small, but they’re easier to qualify for (healthy adults can participate) and pay more. A Phase I trial is tested on just 20 to 80 people, according to ClinicalTrials.gov, but the CISCRP says they’re usually the highest-paying at “an average of $1,968 per volunteer.”
  5. Later trials are bigger but are less likely to pay. And when they do, usually offer less. Phase II can include a few hundred people, and Phase III thousands. But CISCRP says later trials have a “slightly more than 50 percent” chance of paying, with Phase IV offering the lowest average compensation, around $400.
  6. Pay rate also depends on the area of medicine. “The highest amounts are offered for cardiovascular disease, neurology, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and blood disorders,” the CISCRP says.
  7. “A trial is not a substitute for a job,” the CISCRP says. But it can require some work – it’s not just a matter of popping pills. You may have to keep daily logs of symptoms or travel, so you should factor in your time commitment and gas when considering the pay. And while “most studies provide free study medication, tests, and reimbursement for study related expenses,” not all do.

To learn more about clinical trials, check out ClinicalTrials.gov’s frequently asked questions page and the glossary of terms. The CISCRP also has a lot more information, including a quick summary brochure and a list of questions to ask before you jump in.

Have you participated in a clinical trial before? Share your story and advice with other readers on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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