How would you like to get paid a few thousand to lay around and be fed?
Ok, it’s not really as simple as that, but many clinical trials aren’t that hard either. In the interest of finding different ways for you to make and save money I signed up and was involved in a clinical trial. While there, I talked to people in there who had done everything from 1 through to 35 day trials, asked them for their thoughts, tips and advice. Doctors, nurses and everyone else involved were more than happy to answer my millions of questions too. This post will cover the pros and cons and my experience.
Why do a clinical trial?
Most people do it for the cash, although some say they do it to help others. When I asked others in my group why they were doing it, money was the driving force.
My reasons were a little more involved.
Reason 1 – A clinical trial came up for a condition I have which also affects people going through cancer. This trial was for a copycat of medication already out there, a medication I or my daughters are likely to need in the future given my condition and the strong family history of cancer.
Reason 2 – I’ve been curious about medical testing for years and wanted to test it for you guys so I can give firsthand experience for you.
Reason 3 – The money. I won’t lie, the money for the one I am involved in was $4,050. That was appealing!
How much do you get paid?
Payment varies depending on how long you do it for and how much is involved. Some clinical trials require you to stay in the clinic/hospital for quite a while, others are short. Outpatient visits can vary from none to 20 or more. Mine has 2 x 3 overnight stays in 2 different months and 20 outpatient visits. Others were only there overnight with no outpatient visits and some had between 14 and 35 day stays with some outpatient visits. Each trial is different.
The payments I heard ranged from $750 (quite a short trial) through to $8,000. The payments are essentially $10 per hour, so less than minimum wage and not designed to make up for an actual wage. Payments are made in instalments and are designed to cover travel, parking and other expenses incurred while doing the trial. They are not designed to compensate for loss of income, daycare fees or anything like that.
With the instalments, it often goes a payment for the screening, followed by your first overnight visit with a set amount, your outpatient visits being another amount. As you complete each step of the trial, the amounts are paid within 10 days.
What do I need to do for a clinical trial?
For most clinical trials you need to be healthy. The requirements for each trial will vary and it will be clearly outlined.
Registration is the first step. You will then be screened on a phone call to see if you are a suitable applicant. A time will be made for your first proper screening appointment where they will do blood and urine tests, an ECG and possibly ultrasounds or other scans. This is to determine you are fit and healthy for the study or to confirm you have the condition they want to test.
Once that is done if you pass, you will be booked into a group or cohort for the trial. Never go for cohort 1. The first group/cohort are the ones where any major side effects will be picked up. Go for later groups to ensure they have a clear idea of side effects and you can have a clear understanding of the risks.
Next, you attend appointments or stay overnight for as long as needed for the trial you have been selected for. Whether the stay is 1 night or 35, you will be required to stay in the clinic the entire time. You might be able to have visitors, but you cannot leave.
Meals, a bed, a common room with games, lounges, video games etc are included. You are given all your meals, told when to eat and cannot bring in food or medications from home.
When I checked in, our bags were checked, we went through the screening again and one girl was sent home because her blood results and ECG showed a slight abnormality.
For the duration of your stay you are watched, monitored, everything is recorded, you eat at specific times, have blood or urine tests and times you must stay in bed.
My specific study required us to be blindfolded when injected to ensure we didn’t know which medication we were given. We had to stay in bed 1 hour after we were injected, have regular blood tests and a canular was put in our arms so they could draw blood every 2 hours on the second night. Sleep was minimal on that night but we could sleep during the day. We also had our vitals (temperature and blood pressure) taken regularly, along with our overall wellbeing checked.
After the 3 night stay, I have had to go back every day for the first 3 days, then every second day and a few other visits. I then get a break, followed by that same process again.
Once each section is completed, a payment is made within 10 days.
Risks of clinical trials in Australia
Australia is one of the world leaders when it comes to medicine so the risks are considered to be lower. However, it doesn’t mean there are no risks. You are having medicine tested on you and there can be side effects.
With the trial I did, we were not the first group to be tested on (in fact, we were the 10th). We knew the likely side effects which were a pain in the bones and joints, headaches and similar. Some of us had them, others didn’t. You are monitored closely, everything documented and pain relief is given if needed. I had about 4 days of pain from mine. Others had headaches so severe they resorted to sleeping as much as possible and needed codeine.
Be aware of the side effects of any trial you choose to be involved in. These risks are real and you need to consider how they will impact your life. You are closely monitored for any side effects, but there have been cases of death overseas.
How do you get involved?
Select the company you wish to do it through or check for ones in your area. Read independent reviews and experiences online about them.
I went to The Centre for Clinical Studies which is part of the Nucleus Network here in Melbourne. If you do happen to join them and say Kylie Travers referred you, there is a $100 bonus for me if you’re accepted to a trial and that money can be used for giveaways on this site.
There is also a government website which lists others here. I reached out to a few but got no response so can only speak about the one I did.
While I was in there I got lots of tips and advice from others who have done it a few times. Here they are:
1.) Don’t be the first
I already mentioned this, but do not be in the first group to test anything. Always aim to be a few groups later so they already know the possible side effects.
2.) Look for minimal outpatient visits
The outpatient visits can take up a chunk of travel time and interrupt your day. For example, 20 times I need to go back for a quick checkup with a blood test, blood pressure and temperature taken as well as the doctor checking everything. For me, it was 1 hour travel plus 10 to 30 minutes in the clinic. Others had significantly longer travel time, up to 2 hours each way. Find clinical trials with fewer outpatient visits to minimise disruption to your life.
3.) Check the blood tests
Not all studies require numerous blood tests like mine did. Having a canular in all the time was annoying and at times painful because I got it caught on things or couldn’t sleep how I normally do. Other studies didn’t need blood tests every 2 hours so didn’t need them in.
4.) Prepare to be bored
I took a few books, my Mac, phone and of course, chatted with people to pass the time, but overall, I missed my kids and couldn’t work as much as I wanted because of the canular in my arm.
5.) Don’t lie
This might seem obvious, but they are testing everything about you multiple times. You can’t lie your way in. They test urine and blood, along with doing ultrasounds, ECG’s and any others tests. If you have any conditions, have eaten poppy seeds, smoke or drink too much, take over the counter medications or supplements and don’t tell them, they will know and you will get booted from the study.
6.) Take your own pillow
Simple, but it will make a real difference. The ones in there are hard and designed to last in a hospital with multiple people using them. They are not comfy!
7.) Take care of yourself
In my study, we weren’t allowed to drink or smoke too much, couldn’t do much exercise and were not allowed to do strenuous exercise before blood tests. The first few days after the injection was painful and you need to allow yourself time to rest. Document everything including if you take any painkillers, how much and when. Sleep if you need and allow yourself time to adjust back to normal.
Keeping track of your health is easier now than ever with the advancement of online diagnostic tools. They’re not a replacement for doctors yet, but they’re a good place to start, you can learn more at CPOE.org.
If doing medical trials is something you’d consider, make sure you do thorough research and be aware of all the risks.
What do you think of being part of clinical trials and medical testing?