I received an interesting letter from my GP last week. It said I could earn hundreds by taking part in a clinical trial for people with migraines.
Unfortunately, as I delved a little deeper I realised I wouldn’t be eligible for the trial because I no longer suffer from 3-8 migraines a month. For a split second I cursed a missed opportunity to make money but then I remembered the time I went to sleep on the floor of a disabled toilet in my university building because my migraine was so agonising that I couldn’t transport myself home and all I needed to do was sleep it off.
Not only could I do with extra money that comes from a clinical trial, it’d be exciting to be part of some research that could potentially change people’s lives.
When my grandma was alive, she used to do clinical trials from time to time. I can’t imagine her doing it for the money. Instead, I reckon she will have done it to be part of something important and to help others. I can imagine her chatting away to other participants in the waiting room and asking the researchers lots of questions to learn more about the human body and medicine. Bless her heart.
I regret not asking her more about her clinical trials when she was alive, but the letter through the post inspired me to do a bit of digging to learn more about clinical trials, the type of money that can be made, and the risks involved.
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is a medical research study that involves people.
Who can take part in a clinical trial?
Each clinical trial will have its own set of participant criteria. Some trials require volunteers who suffer from a health problem such as cancer, HIV or eczema.
Other trials need healthy volunteers. In some cases, ‘healthy’ means there must be no health issues such as diabetes or auto-immune conditions (that rules me and my coeliac disease out of the equation). Other times the criteria can be really specific, demanding that participants are non smokers, exercise regularly, and have a specific BMI,
Some trials only want to assess people of a certain sex and others specifically require volunteers in a particular age bracket.
If you’d like to make money by taking part in a clinical trial, it’s all about finding one where you meet the criteria.
What are the different types of clinical trial?
There are two main types of trials or studies – interventional and observational.
What are interventional trials?
Interventional trials aim to find out more about a particular intervention, or treatment. People taking part in this type of trial are put into different treatment groups. This is so the research team can compare the results.
What are observational trials?
Observational studies are designed to find out what happens to people in different situations. The research team observe the people taking part, but they don’t influence the type of treatments people have and participants aren’t put into treatment groups.
Cancer Research has a helpful guide into the different types of clinical trials that’s worth checking out if you’d like more information.
How much money can be made by doing a clinical trial?
The amount of money that can be made from clinical trials varies depending on a number of factors including:
- The amount of time required
- The risks involved
This isn’t to say that the better paid a trial is, the riskier it is. There are some trials that carry relatively few risks but they pay well because you need to devote a considerable amount of time to them.
What are the benefits of taking part in clinical trials?
Aside from the obvious financial benefits, clinical trials help those in the medical profession understand how to treat a particular illness. This can in turn save and improve lives. It may benefit you, or others like you, in the future.
If you take part in a clinical trial, you may be one of the first people to benefit from a new treatment.
If you take part in a trial that tests a particular treatment, there’s a chance the treatment in question won’t be any more effective than others on the market. This certainly doesn’t mean your time has been wasted. Instead, you’ve helped to rule out an ineffective medicine.
How risky are clinical trials?
Clinical trials sometimes come with health risks and there have been cases where things have gone very wrong. Thankfully, there are a lot of safety measures in place to reduce the risks and the probability of things going wrong are very small.
Is it worth risking my health for a clinical trial?
This is an impossible question to answer because it’s a very personal decision. The chances of your health being negatively impacted by a clinical trial is small, but the risks are still there.
While researching this post, I’ve seen a lot of people say things like: “I would never take part in a clinical trial because I value my health.” Although I completely respect everyone’s right to not become a human guinea pig, and I do have reservations myself, it’s foolish to say you value your health while disregarding the importance of clinical trials or mocking those that choose to do them.
Without clinical trials, we wouldn’t have safe and effective medicine. Every pill you’ve taken throughout your life had to be tested on people and without these volunteers, the average lifespan would be significantly shorter than it is. Your chances of surviving life-threatening illnesses would be reduced. You wouldn’t have access to the treatments you benefit from today. You might have died the first time you had the flu and a cancer diagnosis would automatically be a death sentence. We owe so much to clinical trials so it’s important to raise awareness of their benefits, even if we don’t wish to take part in them ourselves.
How do I take part in a clinical trial?
You may receive a letter in the post from your GP surgery that invites you to apply for a clinical trial based on your medical records.
You can also ask your doctor or a patient organisation if they know of any clinical trials that you may be eligible for.
The websites of trusted charities can be another place to look.
Do I need to take time off work for a clinical trial?
This will all depend on the type of clinical trial you take part in.
In some cases, you might just have to take time off work for the occasional appointment.
In other cases you may have to book a few weeks or even months off work in order to take part.
There are other clinical trials that require you to be available to researchers 24/7 during the duration of the study. FluCamp, for example, requires you to stay in their facility for around 10 to 14 days.