Clinical trial sponsors are continuously looking for volunteers to test their products. Often, many sponsors are willing to pay participants for taking part in these studies. This can be perceived by some as easy money. Depending on the complexity and length of the testing, trial volunteers can make a significant amount of money for taking a few test pills. This is one of the reasons people struggling financially may take up trial volunteering as a line of work. However, one must understand the risks before enrolling in a clinical trial.


All medications must pass a series of drug development steps before they are allowed to be sold to the public. One such step is human testing. It is during this step that sponsors look for volunteers to test new drugs. Before a volunteer agrees to participate in a trial, he receives information on the drug being tested, the procedures he will undergo, and possible side effects.  However, the list of possible side effects is not complete. Since the medication is in the development stage, not everything is known about it. One is essentially volunteering to be a human guinea pig.

Sponsor companies take extensive precautions to protect the volunteers, but there is always a level of risk involved. A few years ago a trial conducted in England using healthy volunteers went terribly wrong. All volunteers had multiple organ failure within minutes of receiving the test drug. Some of these paid healthy volunteers actually died as a result of the test drug. This was an extreme case and it is not the norm, but this is part of the risk a subject undertakes when participating in clinical trials.


Is it worth the risk?


The following must be met in order for the money to be worth the risk:
-Payment for participation is substantial
-Possible side effects are minimal
-Participant is willing to live with any and all possible outcomes

Sponsors conduct clinical trials on a regular, ongoing basis. Payment for participation is for the most part not substantial. After adding the amount of time spent traveling to the clinic for testing, time spent at the clinic, and the number of tests performed on the volunteer, payment might be worth only $9 an hour for the average trial.

There are known side effects to every test drug, yet unexpected side effects are never ruled out. Sponsors are not able to guarantee that side effects will be minimal. The volunteer must educate himself before making a final decision.

Human participation in clinical trials is a necessary evil. Society should be grateful to those who volunteer.


The money one can make by participating in a clinical trial may be worth the risk. This would depend on each individual’s circumstances.

For more information on this issue, contact the Kulkarni Law Firm.