Thousands of people around the world every month voluntarily give their body and time over to become a human guinea pig of sorts, all in the name of science research.
Paul Clough has participated in over 80 drug tests in the span of 11 years. Some clinical trials last months, some only days or weeks.
“We are selling our bodies, most definitely,” “well, renting, might be more accurate,” says Clough who is 37. “It’s like summer camp, it’s kind of like being in jail, except you don’t get shanked in the shower,” he says, since he is in a trial where he cannot leave.
Some people rely on testing drugs as an income for themselves. While not an easy income, and some may feel the volunteers time is in vain, these trails can and do benefits medical research.
Daily requirements are, showing up daily to pop a pill, check his vitals, eat cafeteria food and make small talk with other volunteers in the study, Clough says.
With the ability to make thousands in just a few weeks as a human guniea pig, donating your body over for clinical trails doesn’t seem so bad. The riskier the trial the more is paid out.
Earlier this year a trial went bad in France, where one patient died and several may have permanent disabilities and neurological complications. While authorities still do not know what went wrong in France, complications with clinical trials are not unheard of.
NPR said, the so-called phase 1 clinical trials involve small groups of healthy people and try to decide the correct doses of new drugs to see what side effect if any at all in humans might be.
If a drug passes the first round of tests then it moves onto a large group study where they will typically compare the new treatment with a placebo and study the outcome.
“Every time you see a TV commercial for a drug and thy rattle off all the reasons why you shouldn’t take the drug – that’s all the information they get from people like me,” says Clough.
Up until the 1970’s, experimental medications were often tested on prisoners. Now, clinics rely on healthy volunteers who get paid for taking the risk, typically around $200 a night that is spent in a facility.
Clough is able to lead a day-to-day life, and travel because of his new-found career as a professional human lab rat. But he knows because of his past legal issues, these clinical trials are the perfect jobs for him.
“We need the money,” Clough says, albeit the trails him and other serial participants partake in, will eventually help someone, the main reason they volunteer in so many drug trials is the money.
Clough says he cannot get a regular job, and the organizers of the clinical trial do not look at your past, rather what your body can do and if you can be an asset to the experiment.
Jill Fisher, sociologist at the Center for Bioethics at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, says that’s a perspective she’s come across often in her research.
NPR says she studies people who take part in multiple phase 1 clinical trials including self-proclaimed professionals like Clough.
“I think that says a lot about our system overall and what kind of opportunities we have for people in a period of post-incarceration,” “I’m very concerned about the fact that we’re using a portion of our population who might not ever be able to afford the drugs that they’re part of testing, and not compensating them perhaps to the degree that we really should,” she says.
For some the money is great, but Fisher says there are more concerns with phase 1 clinical research that most are aware of.
The vast majority of participants in clinical research trials are African americans and Hispanics. The drugs that they are testing can go on to make billions of dollars, while some phase 1 clinical drugs never even make it to market.
Robert Biafore, a former used car salesman has participated in at least 50 trials over a span of 6 years.
When the economy went down hill in 2008 he started volunteering for drug research trials.
Biafore says, who is uninsured, “my time will come to an end … and I will go back to selling cars. But in the meantime, this is easy. And I’m getting full medical checks.” “Where else am I going to go and get labs done, physicals done, ECG’s done, MRI’s looked at and people are going to look at my body and tell me what is wrong with me before somethings even wrong?”
Biafore in not ignorant to the risks of being a human lab rat, but the most that has occurred negatively to him was a rash and once he vomited.
“It’s all part of the game,” he says. “You’re letting scientists use your body to get data for clinical research, so they can get it approved by the FDA. It is what it is. You can’t be afraid of it.”
Every time sometime picks up medicine from a pharmacy, or gets a prescriptions, they owe a debt to the human guinea pigs NPR says.
“If it wasn’t for the people like us you wouldn’t get that medication,” Biafore says.