Did you know that before a drug can make it to the market for doctors to prescribe to their patients, it must go through 12 years of testing, which costs something to the tune of $350 million? This is how the Federal Drug Administration (F.D.A.) ensures that the medication is safe for people to take, that it actually serves the purpose that it is supposed to serve, how the drug behaves over time and how it interacts with other medications or materials (such as the bottle it came in).
One critical step in ensuring that your drugs are safe and effective is a series of clinical trials that test them out on real people. Being part of a clinical study might seem like a sketchy way to make money, but in reality, it not only gives you access to treatments that you otherwise couldn’t take, and it also helps science. However, before participating in a clinical study, you should understand what you’re getting yourself into.
Three Things You Should Know Before Participating in a Clinical Study
- Understand the risk, and make sure it’s worth it.
Participating in any medical research studies involves a certain level of risk. You don’t get a nice outline of the potential side effects that you could be subject to; that’s what the clinical drug development that you’re participating in is establishing. You could be part of a blind test that offers you a placebo treatment, and so your illness would get none of the care that would improve the symptoms. You could have annoying symptoms that arise as a result of the medical treatment. You could even suffer from serious complications, including death.
So if the risk is so great, why undertake it? This is something that you should think about. What is worth it to you? Some clinical trials compensate their participants. The earlier you are in the testing cycle (such as phase 1 clinical trials), the greater the risk. This is important to understand, because you should be compensated accordingly.
If you are getting paid for your trouble, make sure that you make the amount of money that makes it worthwhile to you. Many clinical trials offer the people who participate in them access to medical treatments they’d never have available otherwise, often in premier facilities. This might be life-saving, even if it is at a risk.
- Understand what you’re getting yourself into.
Researchers are required to give you a document called the document of informed consent before you start your trial. This might be a lot of words and mumbo jumbo, but don’t treat it like the find print you get before you sign up for a new cell phone plan; this is your health and vitality. You should take great care to read every detail of the informed consent document and understand what you’re getting yourself into before you agree to sign up.
Keep in mind that if you sign the informed consent document, you’re agreeing that you understand what you’re getting into. What you are not doing is committing yourself to participate in the study if you change your mind later. No matter what clinical trial you participate in, you are always able to walk away if you find it necessary.
- Your pay increases the earlier in the study you participate.
There are basically four phases in clinical trials. Phase one clinical trials only involve a dozen or so patients. During this phase, not much is known about the drug. That means that if the drug creates undesirable side effects, they probably don’t know it yet, and it will arise when you take the drug. While a downside, it also means that you’re in for a bigger payday. If your interest in participating in such a study is to get a paycheck, this would be the most beneficial time to get in on it. Phase 1 pays their participants an average of $2,000 a pop. Not bad.
When you get involved in a later trial, you will definitely get paid less, and sometimes no pay at all (but still receive free treatment). By phase 4, the average paying study offers about $400 in compensation.
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