13 things you should know before taking part in a drug trial

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By in Make Money. Updated July 2016.

You may have jokingly considered selling your body to top-up your dwindling student account – but is it a viable option?Student Drug TrialsIncreasingly students are considering volunteering their bodies for clinical trials in exchange for money.

As you might expect, there are mixed reviews and concerns, so we’ve explored the world of paid drugs trials to present you the vital things you need to know first.

We’ve also found out some of the leading companies to deal with, as well as some alternative money making ideas if you discover it’s not for you. Aren’t we so helpful?

Already know that trials aren’t for you? Head over to our ultimate guide to making money as a student for alternative methods of cash making.

What you need to know

  1. There’s a growing demand for testers

    poppingpillsThe constant creation of new drugs and medicines creates a high demand for willing human patients to test them on, as pharmaceutical companies need to ensure their product is safe for the mass market.

    These companies will offer tempting cash incentives for taking part in the trials, and the actual effort involved on the volunteer’s part is minimal.

    Yet while there are jobs aplenty and the rewards seems high, you should always weigh up all the facts first.

  2. Different trials have different requirements

    healthistoryMost clinical trials will request volunteers aged anywhere between 18-75, as long as they are healthy and don’t smoke or drink too much – we realise that may rule a lot of students out already!

    Other trials may ask for specific requirements, such as asthma sufferers, women on the contraceptive pill or diabetics – it all depends on the type of trial you’re partaking in.

    Basically, make sure you know what you’re signing up for and don’t tell porkies!

  3. There are different types of trials

    firstmaninThere are several phases of clinical studies, depending on how much research has been done on the drug already.

    A phase one trial, also known as a ‘first man in’, means you’ll be the first humans to take the drug, but it will have been thoroughly tested on animals first.

    Phase two trials are the next stage and you’ll be the second round of people to take the drug. Phase three is, well you guessed it…

    Obviously, the further from the first you are, the more appealing the study may be to you!

  4. You don’t always get paid more for riskier trials

    riskandrewardBefore you register for clinical trials, the important thing to note is that the pay is not always higher for riskier drugs.

    While there’s the potential to make hundreds or even thousands of pounds doing clinical trials, remember you could be risking your long-term health for just £100.

    Payment is generally worked out on a time basis, that is: how many visits you made for the trials, the duration of stay on site for the trial, and the length of the trial.

    Research companies may also offer an allowance to cover your travel.

  5. Trials can last several weeks

    twoweeksDepending on the trial you might just need to stay overnight, but others demand a two-week (or more) stay on the site of the trial. Clinical trials could therefore be a disruption to your studies and wider life.

    Make sure to think carefully about it. You’re paying for lectures already so don’t skip these to make money – that just doesn’t make sense!

  6. You’ll be given an examination

    clincialOnce you register for clinical trials you will be given a full medical examination (thank god there’s no revision) to make sure you’re suitable. If the company decides to use you as a volunteer you will be given the green light to be a tester.

    You should be prepared for a no though – they won’t take everyone!

  7. You might not end up taking the drug

    memeIt might sound weird, but not everyone in a clinical trial will actually end up taking the drug. Some people will be given the trial drug, some might get given something similar and others will get a placebo.

    But shhhh… we probably shouldn’t have told you this and, of course, you won’t know what you’re taking at the time though!

  8. Tests will be required

    bloodtestIf you’re needle-phobic then this could be a biggie for you, as the chances are you’ll have to undergo some tests, such as giving blood.

    If you can stand this though you won’t have to do much more. Lots of volunteers report getting paid to play on  PlayStations, getting unlimited Internet usage, and having time to catch up on work. Pretty much what you’d be doing back at uni then…

  9. There are always risks

    tightropeLounging about and getting paid for it does sound mighty appealing, but don’t forget there always is a risk factor here.

    Some drugs will have ‘common’ side effects such as nausea, fainting and headaches, which could wipe you out for a few days, but others could be more serious.

    In 2006 one trial, dubbed the ‘elephant man’ scandal left six men fighting for their lives after a drug caused an unprecedented reaction. One man’s head swelled up massively, so as to resemble an elephant, and another suffered organ failure and frostbite, leaving him with several amputated toes and fingers.

    Yet while this is terrifying, it’s worth remembering this was only such big news because it happens so rarely.

  10. Trials are regulated

    Clinical trial regulationIt’s also worth noting that trials aren’t just devised willy nilly. All clinical tests must correspond to the regulations set up by the MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and be approved by an ethics committee.

    While clinical trials can be risky, those who are prepared to take the risk are invaluable. The NHS and other medical institutions urge volunteers not to be put off drug trials as they are essential to the development of medicine.

  11. Make sure you’re registered for aftercare

    Aftercare drug trialsWhile there are some expected clinical trial risks such as nausea and headaches, lots of outcomes cannot be predicted.

    You should ensure that you are contracted to received the adequate amount of care for this. Be sure you are registered with your own doctor before a trial to monitor any adverse side effects.

  12. You’re free to leave at any time

    runwayDrug trial volunteers are able to leave the trial at any time, so if you feel it’s all getting too much or you don’t like the way things are going you always have the option to bow out.

    However, don’t let this lure you into signing up if you’re not sure!

  13. There are lots of different companies

    choiceYou should always make sure to research a range of companies before signing up to any trials, as you want to make sure you sign up to a credible, unbiased company.

    Once again, don’t be swayed by the biggest pay-out. A company researching for a better product than their competitors may be biased with their results, and this could impact on your care.

Trusted companies to consider

If you’ve weighed up all the facts and still want to go ahead with clinical trials then there are a number of options you can take.

Educational institutes

Grad HatIf you live near a teaching hospital then that’s a good place to make an initial enquiry or alternatively you could look into trials at your university.

You may also come across post-graduates and researchers who tend to carry out low-risk research and frequently recruit volunteers in exchange for various rewards.

Find teaching hospitals »


covance_thumbOne of the big names in clinical trials, Covance will hold around 30 trials a year, offering a selection of phase one and phase two tests.

You can expect to be paid between £500 to £3,000 for your time, depending on the type of trial.

Visit the Covance website »

Trials 4 Us

t4us_twitter_logoTrials 4 Us is the largest clinical trial organisation in the UK and tests drugs for a range of conditions and illnesses.

They promise accommodation with unlimited gaming and internet access, as well as rates of up to £120 a day.

Visit the Trials 4 Us website »

Remember to read all the information provided and don’t sign anything unless you’re certain about it. Before opting in you should also discuss the trial with your doctor.

Alternative ways of making money

save moneyEven if you’re a cash strapped student, we promise there are other ways to make money.

The website Trials 4 Us offers money for blood donation, provided you fit the right category and some clinical trials involve paid psychological studies as opposed to drug taking.

For less invasive ways to make money, check out our articles on the best paid online survey websites, how to earn money on YouTube or how to make money selling your stuff.

Have you ever taken part in a clinical trial to earn some extra cash? We’d love to hear about your experiences and tips in the comments below!

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