How to Make Extra Money by Participating in Clinical Trials

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Do you want to make some extra money but don’t want the hassle of a minimum-wage job? Do you need to make a good sum of money quickly because you have bills to pay now? Then clinical trials may be the answer for you. Before you get all squeamish about becoming a lab rat, though, here are some basic facts about clinical trials:

  • Inpatient vs. outpatient trials
    Inpatient clinical trials require that the subject (meaning you) stay at the facility for the length of the study, including overnight. Outpatient clinical trials require that the subject appear for the initial screening and trial start and then complete several follow-up visits.
  • Control vs. test group
    Study participants are categorized into control and test groups. The control group is typically not administered the intervention and usually receives the placebo. Participants may also be recruited for the direct purpose of being part of the control group; for example, a study may need participants who do not have diabetes so that their responses can be compared to those participants who do have diabetes.
  • Phase I, II or III
    If the clinical trial involves the development of a new drug or medical procedure, that intervention must pass through a series of tests, or phases, before being approved by the FDA. Phase I trials assess the safety of the intervention relative to placebo. Phase II trials assess intervention efficacy (i.e., does it work). Phase III trials fine-tune intervention dosing, confirm efficacy, etc.
  • High pay
    Clinical trials pay between $50-$300 per day/visit, with compensation dependant upon the length of the time required as well as the procedures performed. Overnight stays typically pay more money than those involving repeat visits. Likewise, the more invasive the procedures, the more monetary compensation that is provided.

Aside from the money, however, there are some major benefits to participating in clinical trials. For starters, clinical trials require that the subject undergo a physical examination. If it’s been a while since your last physical check-up, this is a good way to find out about your health. Drug trials often require more extensive examinations; you might be required to undergo an EEG, EKG, MRI or a complete blood analysis. The findings from such expensive tests can be invaluable for your personal health.

Assuming you have a condition that is being studied in a clinical trial, that trial can even end up saving your life. Each year, thousands of cancer patients sign up for clinical trials in the hopes that such trials will cure or at least delay their cancer. However, even if all you have is a simple allergy, participating in a clinical trial that attempts to treat your condition can go a long way towards ridding you of this annoyance.

Finally, there is the humanitarian aspect of participating in clinical trials. Without human test subjects, many currently successful treatments for HIV and AIDS would not exist. Likewise, many vaccines on the market today owe their realization to volunteers who willingly underwent testing. Medicine does not advance without the altruism of human test subjects.

My personal history with clinical trials

Back when I was a struggling graduate student at the National Institutes of Health, I sought out and participated in a number of clinical trials. The resource I used to find out about clinical trials was the website ClinicalTrials.gov. N.I.H. clinical trials are offered all over the United States and worldwide, by the way, not just at its main campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

One of the major clinical trials that I participated in was at the National Institute for Mental Health. There, I underwent a series of fMRI scans as the control (or so they told me) in a gambling study. This trial was actually quite fun because I got to gamble while lying inside of the scanner. If I placed my bets just right, I actually won money in addition to the pay I was making from the study. I made roughly $100 for every hour I spent inside of the fMRI.

By the time my gambling study was done, I’d accumulated roughly $1550, with $50 of that money coming from gambling.

After this study closed, I was asked if I wanted to undergo a PET scan for a Parkinson’s disease drug study. The only hitch here was that the medication was radioactive. I made sure to ask every question I could think of before saying yes to this study. When I was done, I had $500 in my pocket.

Once I graduated and moved to Madison, I looked up clinical trials at the University of Wisconsin. I located a Phase III allergy study and qualified for it once a skin prick test confirmed that I had a ragweed allergy. For the next six months, I took a daily sub-lingual dose of ragweed extract in order to soften my body’s reaction to ragweed. I also recorded any allergy symptoms that I experienced.

For this study, I was required to show up at the lab once a month and give an update of my condition (which included an annoying pregnancy test every single time). At each of these follow-up visits, I was paid $75. By the time the study was complete, I was $675 richer and hopefully allergy-free.

A year later, the UW allergy study coordinator informed me that I had previously been assigned to the placebo group. This meant that I had not been taking the study medication at all. Although this sounded disappointing, it also qualified me to do the allergy study again. I agreed to a repeat study and by the end of another 6 months had amassed another $675 (and was maybe and finally allergy-free).

I also signed up for two clinical trials conducted by Covance, a company that performs thousands of drug trials for pharmaceutical companies and other labs. Covance pays extremely well for participation in clinical trials; however, the physical criteria for its studies can be difficult to achieve. Also, because the studies pay so well, there is an overabundance of volunteers. Some people actually earn a good living (i.e., $60,000/year) by participating in Covance trials.

I signed up for a $4,200 HIV drug trial with Covance and spent nearly a day there getting qualified. In the end, the techs didn’t like my EKG very much and disqualified me. I still made $100 for my time, though.

The second time I showed up at Covance, it was for a $1,700 fat absorption drug study. This time, I probably would’ve physically qualified; however, due to the large number of volunteers, a lottery had to be conducted. Needless to say, I didn’t win- though I did make $50 for my time.

Things to consider about clinical trials:

In the United States, the FDA regulates clinical trials through what’s known as its principles of Good Clinical Practice (GCP) that focus on human subject protection (HSP). However, some clinical trials still manage to slip under the FDA radar and violate basic GCP principles. Protect yourself from undue harm by doing the following:

  • Always read the research protocol and ask questions. If there is something in the protocol that you don’t understand, don’t be shy about requesting more information. The study coordinator should know the answers to your questions, or if not, contact the head scientist on the study for clarification.
  • You have the right to end your participation in the study at any time. If you become too uncomfortable with the study to continue it, then you have the right to quit it without losing the compensation you have received thus far. Furthermore, a good study coordinator should ask you at every follow-up visit if you wish to continue the study.
  • Remember that not all clinical trials are safe. Clinical trials test drugs and therapies whose side effects are still unknown. Some test medications are dissolved in compounds to which you could have an allergy or other reaction. If your gut tells you that a particular study isn’t safe, don’t do it! There are plenty of other clinical trials through which you can participate and make money.

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21 Comments

    1. These trials are a great way to make extra money. I did a couple in Knoxville thru NOCCR, one for 3 weeks and rec’d $3400. The nurses and volunteers were all great and would do it again.

    2. And after ALL this time, I thought you had just recently finished undergrad school at Penn State. Grad work at NIH?? I’m impressed, Steve. Outstanding academic credentials!! Just lends still more credence (not that it’s needed…) to your website.

    3. This post was written by Halina! She’s an article writer here at I’ve Tried That. I really need to get her to write an introduction post…

    4. I have signed up for a clinical trial with noccr knoxville. They informed me that I would have to pass a drug and alcohol screen. I have smoked marijuana infrequently recently, up until yesterday. My appointment is friday. Would that disqualify me? It is for an anti malarial drug.

    5. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Hi Brian, Thanks for commenting. I’ve never heard of drug/alcohol use disqualifying a person from doing a study. However, I’m wondering if the screen is being done here to remove individuals who might have suppressed immune systems due to drugs/alcohol. Not that I’d consider marijuana to compromise an immune system. But that might be reason. Overall, I wouldn’t worry about marijuana; I think they’re looking for heavier stuff. Good luck!

    6. marcus kremer says:

      I have personally done 107 clinical trials over 22 yrs and have made over $200,000 with hardly any side effects.

      I do have marks from catheters and needles after all these years but I find other than that no problems whatsoever.

      I find it is a great way to supplement income as well as helping forward research that may one day even help me in the end.

    7. Wow, Marcus, that’s a lot of money! But I know what you mean about the marks- at Covance, I saw several volunteers with actual “railroad tracks” on their arms. Employers might give you funny looks when you show up with arm marks.

    8. Have been researching clinical trials for over a month now & find a handful disqualify for smoking Cigarettes-marijuana, but the length between the last time you smoked anything varies in between studies. My question is how long does it typically take to start making decent money from studies?

    9. Also, are the smaller payout studies really worth the long drives to doc visits because I am not seeing a big incentive to drive if the studies offer $300 over different doc visits. I’m trying to determine if they add up or are just a waste? Please let me know. Thanks.

    10. FYI, NOCCR does a full panel drug screen. I tested positive for THC and failed the screening. Bummer.

    11. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Bummer, Brian. It just may be one of the criteria that participants don’t have too many other substances in their systems. Especially THC, which has been found to treat many ailments (e.g., cancer pain) and alleviate several health conditions.

    12. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Robert, the bigger and more involved studies usually pay out in the thousands of dollars. Smaller trials, as you noted, may just not be worth your time, especially if you have to be driving out several times. Studies don’t usually pay out on the spot, though, and in some cases I’ve had to wait several weeks for my check to arrive. Although, the allergy study I did at UW paid me out about $80 every time I showed up- and I was driving maybe 5 miles. Hope this helps!

    13. Yes it does, Thanks!!! I had learned from my research that they pay with checks but didn’t know it took sometime to get the check, thought for sure they’d write it out then & there, but I guess it takes time like everything else. lol Wish me luck!

    14. Do you have to file taxes on the money?

    15. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Hi Dwayne,
      Yes, you do pay taxes on those earnings, unless you make under $600. So that needs to be taken into consideration too.

    16. How do I go about finding the right research study?

    17. How do you know what they pay? I’ve never seen it listed? Do you ask when you call about it?

    18. Halina, I read your article yesterday and looked up the Covance website. I noticed that Covance pays a referral fee of $200 for each referral. I’m going back to the website today to sign up as a volunteer and will list your name as a referral. Just wasn’t sure if you were using a pen name or more information will be necessary. If I’m selected it hope the referral works. Thanks for your writing and posting.

    19. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Hello Jacquie, Thank you very much for offering to use my name as your referral! Halina is my real name, by the way. I will let you know if Covance keeps to its word. Thank you again!

    20. Hi,
      This is only for your country, do you maybe know about ANY clinical trials worlwide or how to find a sponsor for a clinical study project if someone have an idea? Do you maybe know about esthetic surgery clinical trials? Physical therapy and bodybuildying issues, circulatory system, vein treatmants, hormonal therapy? I give my body for anything that can work out on me and on others so we all can be truly happy. There is cheap way and solution for anything, they just need to collect the brains. Nobary knows everything but, somebary knows something.

    21. nicolas byers says:

      Im interested in the clinical trails.

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