Tag Archives: BMI

Earning Money by Participating in Drug Studies (Part 1)

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100 U.s. Dollar BanknotesWhile I was writing the recent post about places for nomads to find money-making opportunities, I thought about drug studies. Even the longest drug studies only involve a temporary commitment, and they typically offer a good financial reward on the time invested.

While it’s true that I haven’t participated in a drug study in nearly a decade, I’ve participated in several throughout my life. Today I’m going to share my knowledge of drug studies based on my experiences in the early to mid 2000s. Of course, the world of drug studies may have changed since then, so like all of my posts in which I share information, think of this post as a starting point for the research you will do before you decide if being a drug study participant is the right choice for you.

First of all, what do I mean by “drug study”? According to the website of the National Institutes of Health Office of Person Using Black Blood Pressure MonitorExtramural Research, a clinical trial (the more official term for a drug study) is

A research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.

(The underlined terms in the above definition are themselves defined on the aforementioned webpage.)

Basically, in a clinical trial the environment is manipulated in some way so the outcome can be studied. The manipulation often occurs in the form of taking a drug, or thinking you’re taking a drug but really taking a placebo.

All of the clinical trials I participated in were for healthy volunteers. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center webpage for patient recruitment says

[s]omeone with no known significant health problems who participates in research to test a new drug, device, or intervention is a “healthy volunteer” or “Clinical Research Volunteer”.

Macro Photo of Stethoscope and PensYou may be wondering who conducts and pays for clinical trails. According to a MaRS webpage explaining the difference between sponsors and sponsor-investigators,

In the conduct of a clinical trial, a sponsor is an individual, institution, company or organization…that takes the responsibility to initiate, manage or finance the clinical trial,1 but does not actually conduct the investigation.

Apparently a clinical trial can also be conducted by sponsor-investigator, who, the aforementioned website says,

takes on the responsibility as a clinical study sponsor and also conducts or oversees the clinical trial.

As far as I know, all of the studies I participated in had a sponsor (usually a drug company) who hired a private company to conduct the investigation.

Ok, so how healthy does a person have to be to get into a clinical trial? Most study sponsors want participants who don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. At the very least, study requirements typically prohibit volunteers from using tobacco while participating in the trial. Refraining from alcohol during the study is necessary too. Sponsors also want participants who don’t do drugs, either street drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medication. I’ve gotten into studies even after I confessed to taking vitamins, but it was with reluctance on the part of the recruiter. Ideally, sponsors want people who don’t drink alcohol, use tobacco products, or take any drugs ever! They also don’t want you if you show up for a screening (more on that later) or check-in with a cold, a headache, or any sort of sickness.

Another aspect of “health” study sponsors are concerned with is weight, or specifically, Body Mass Index (BMI). Study sponsors want volunteers to be in the “normal” range, so they don’t want people who are too “overweight” participating in their trials. In my experience, descriptions of specific studies will include what BMI range is acceptable. I found it helpful to know my BMI so I didn’t waste time applying for studies my BMI would disqualify me for anyway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers a BMI calculator you can use.

Person Standing In Front Of Food TrayStudy sponsors are not too keen on people with special dietary restrictions, whether those restrictions are for health, ethical, or religious reasons. Sponsors believe it’s important for all human subjects in a trial to eat the same foods, so they’re not going to allow a vegetarian or vegan into a study where they plan to feed the participants a typical meat-based diet. I’ve heard that at some study facilities subjects are required to eat everything on their plates at each meal. I’ve never been in a facility like that; every study I participated in allowed me to decide what and how much of what I was given I would eat at any meal. I did witness people in other studies being required to eat everything on their plates.

Study sponsors are also very concerned that study medications not be allowed to affect any fetus. Typically pregnant women are not allowed to participate in clinical trials, and often female volunteers are advised not to get pregnant for some time after the study is over. Because of these concerns, female volunteers are required to be sterile or on an approved method of birth control. Women not on hormonal birth control typically need to use a barrier method with spermicide as their form of birth control in order to be accepted as study participants.

I know I have used the word “volunteer” throughout this post, but don’t worry, human subjects do get paid. (Believe me, I would not take study medication if I weren’t getting some money for my trouble.) According to the 2012 Money Talks News article “7 Things to Know Before You Join a Clinical Trial,”

Your pay depends on the “phase…”Of the four types of trial…Phases I through IV – Phase I is the earliest, when the effects and outcome are least understood…

Early trials are small, but they’re easier to qualify for (healthy adults can participate) and pay more…Later trials are bigger but…usually offer less [money].

Pay rate also depends on the area of medicine..The highest amounts are offered for cardiovascular disease, neurology, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and blood disorder…

(Warning: most of the links in the article just mentioned no longer work.)

In my experience, other factors such as how long the subject is required to stay in the study facility, how many follow-up visits are required, and how many blood draws are involved in the study also help determine how much compensation a volunteer receives for participating in a clinical trial. The most money I ever earned for participating in a drug study was a little over $3,000 for staying 21 nights in the study facility and taking two psychotropic drugs already on the market. The study sponsors wanted to know how the drugs would interact when taken together. Most of the drug studies I participated in paid between between $1,000 and $2,000 dollars for a five to ten night stay.

Yes, that’s right, you typically have to stay in the study facility during the clinical trial. This is not always the case–I’ve participated in a handful of studies where I went home after taking the study medication, then made a predetermined number of follow-up visits in person or checked in via telephone or email–but typically study participants stay in a medical facility for a predetermined number of days. Staying in the facility helps the folks carrying out the trial be sure no one is smoking or drinking alcohol or taking other drugs while on study medication. It also allows for immediate medical attention from a member of the round-the-clock nursing staff if the study medication causes a dangerous adverse effect. For some people, being confined to the study facility was the hardest part of participating in a clinical trial, but I made good use of my time reading, writing letters, and catching up on cheesy television shows.

Not that I’ve given you an overview of how participation in a clinical trial works, you can start considering if it is right for you. But don’t make a decision yet! Next week I’ll give you some ideas of how to find clinical trials to participate in, what to expect during the initial phone screening as well as the in-person screening, and how to prepare for check-in and your stay in the study.

Some of the information in this post comes from my memory and is correct as far as I recollect. Other information comes from my research on the internet and is correct as far as I can determine. This information is offered as a starting point for your own research, not as the definitive answer to all your questions. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/abundance-achievement-bank-banknotes-534229/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-using-black-blood-pressure-monitor-905874/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/healthy-clinic-doctor-health-42273/ https://pixabay.com/en/no-smoking-logo-symbols-warning-24122/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-standing-in-front-of-food-tray-734542/.

Too Fat to Slide

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I saw a post on Craigslist (where else?) with the subject line, “Airplane Evacuation Slide testing.” The body of the ad read,

60 positions open for a 2 day project testing aerospace equipment.
Must not be afraid of heights
Must be able to commit to both days

I’ve found that on Craigslist, the less information given, the more likely an ad is to be fake. (Although why someone would want to fake airplane evacuation slide testing, I cannot imagine.) I sent an email anyway, in the event the job was real. I’ve never slid down an airplane evacuation slide, so getting paid to do so would give me another good story in the “crazy things I’ve done for money” category.

I replied by email late on Monday night, and didn’t receive a response until late Friday morning. By that time, I’d mostly forgotten about the ad and my reply, so when I received the call, it took me several seconds to figure out what the guy on the other end of the line was talking about.

The young man I was talking to was a recruiter for a temp agency that specializes in the needs of airlines. I had no idea such a temp agency existed.

The fellow went over some information with me: when (6am on two days at the end of the month), where (at a test site not too far from the host family’s place), how much ($15 an hour plus free lunch). He told me that the company was recruiting 60 people, although only 50 were needed. He said if all 60 people showed up, 50 would be picked and the extras sent home with a minimum of four hours pay. Those who stayed would actually be sliding down slides. He assured me there would be plenty of padding all around the slide, in the event anyone jumped too high and missed the slide and ended up on the ground. Also, one part of the test would be a rain simulation where all of the participants would get wet. Was I still interested?

Sure, I was still interested. He asked me some questions about my general health, then said I’d have to go to their office with my driver’s license and social security card or birth certificate to prove I was eligible to work. I’d also have to get checked by a nurse and attend an orientation. Conveniently I could complete all three tasks that very afternoon. I was going to that part of the world anyway, to show my driver’s license and social security card to the human resources folks at the test scoring facility, so why not get everything done at one time?

I found the office building and parked in a spot for two hour visitors. I went into the swanky lobby complete with a security officer dressed like a guard, but acting more like a tour guide. She directed me to the third floor, and I asked where I could find a restroom.

There was a guy going to the same place as I was. He was standing next to me, and when he heard me inquire about a restroom, he told me I shouldn’t use the restroom because they were going to drug test us. I had been asked by the recruiter if I would submit to a drug test, and I’d said yes. I don’t like drug tests, but I can pass them, and I’ve done them before for employment. However, I thought it rather rude for this stranger to tell me not to pee. It was still twenty minutes before I’d been told I’d see the nurse, and I drink enough water to basically pee on demand (TMI? Sorry.) Strangers should pretty much mind their own business.

I accidentally got off on the wrong floor. When the elevator doors opened, I assumed we were on the third floor. I bolted, mostly to escape from Mr. Not Minding His Own Business. After using the restroom (I do what I want, mister!) I went into what I thought was the correct office. (In my defense, there was a big sign with the name of the company I was looking for on the wall.) Turns out I was at the corporate office, but I needed to be at the human resources office. Oh. Embarrassing!

So I got back on the elevator and went up one floor. I found the right office, thanks to the big sign with the company name on the wall. I handed over my driver’s license and social security card for photocopying. Once they were returned, I was ushered into a conference room and given a medical intake form to complete.

The nurse came into the room right at one o’clock and started looking at each potential slider’s medical form. The nurse was an older lady, but not a sweet and cuddly grandma type. She was more of a rough and cocky biker chick type, the kind of woman who might wear a t-shirt announcing that she’s nobody’s old lady. She started eliminating people left and right. One man got really mad at her (his face got really red) because she eliminated him for something he’d told the recruiter about over the phone. She just shrugged and said, People get hurt doing this. Yes, that caused me to have some second thoughts.

Luckily, I’m pretty healthy and I’ve never had any broken bones, so the nurse didn’t find a reason to eliminate me on my medical intake form.

Next on the agenda were the one-on-one meetings with the nurse. I was the last of the group to go.

I followed the nurse down a long hallway and into a tiny room with a table and two chairs. I told her I didn’t know my weight, that I’d only guessed on the form, so she pulled out her scale. I took off my boots and stepped on. On the form, I’d written my weight as 178 pounds. I don’t know why I picked that number. The last time I was on a scale was last September while at my yearly woman’s exam, and I have no recollection of what my weight was then. The nurse’s scale said my weight was 164.8. Hey! That’s like losing 14 pounds in one second!

As I pulled my boots on, the nurse consulted her BMI chart. She told me she’d just remembered to take it out, meaning she’d not checked the BMI of any of the other potential sliders. Upon consulting her chart, she saw that the cutoff weight for someone of my height was 162 pounds. I am 2.8 pounds too fat to test airline evacuation slides!

The nurse shuffled through the other medical intake forms (right in front of me, where I could see people’s names and weight, if not complete medical history), and found at least a couple more people with BMI’s that were too high.

I asked her if I should stay for the orientation. She asked me if they were paying me for it. I said no. I told her that if she was going to eliminate me anyway, I wasn’t going to sit through the orientation. She said she couldn’t pass me, but would call (her superiors, I guess) and find out if they could take people over the current weight limits.

I talked to the recruiter who told me there would be more orientations the next week, so I could come in later if the nurse got the ok.

I wonder if I am better off not doing this job. Sure, the money is good, but the nurse made it sound like the potential for getting hurt is fairly high. If the recruiter calls again, I will probably take the job (and hope I get cut within an hour so I can collect $60 for doing practically nothing), but I’m not going to call the recruiter.