‘Clinical drug trials are easy money’

WITH so many Irish people relying on an income of less than €200-a-week, the prospect of taking part in a clinical trial that offers a similar amount for spending two days in bed has become appealing in recent times.

One volunteer, Stephen*, has taken part in several of these trials and describes it as nothing more than “easy money”.

Stephen, 23, first volunteered at Cork’s Shandon Clinic when he started college and has since taken part in more than 10 trials.

“I started volunteering when I was 19 and living out of home because I really needed the money,” he said.

“The most I have ever done is a 48-hour trial, but I would happily do a longer one.”

Stephen said he has witnessed first-hand how the recession has changed people’s opinion on taking part in clinical trials.

“When I first started volunteering it was much easier to get into trials. There used to be a snobbery about it before but now there is a huge waiting list.”

According to guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Children the compensation offered for taking part in a clinical trial must be reasonable but not act as an incentive.

However in Stephen’s view it is the money being offered – in the region of €130 per day – that keeps him and many others volunteering.

“There are a few people that I have met volunteering for trials more than once, once the 12-week waiting period betweentrials is up a lot of people try to get straight back on the waiting list.”

One issue that deters many people from taking part in clinical trials is the risk factor of taking a medicine whose side effects are not yet fully understood. During a clinical trial in a London hospital in 2006 six men suffered multiple organ failure after being given TGN1412-a drug designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, leukaemia and multiple sclerosis.

The men survived, but their health was permanently damaged.

According to Stephen however, fear for his health at the clinic has never been an issue.

“Most of the trials at Shandon are phase three, meaning they have already been tested before, or generic brand drugs so I never feel like I have much to worry about,” he said.

“The only thing I don’t agree with is the ethics around not allowing staff there to take part in the studies. If someone is working there and they know it is safe then they should be allowed, it would ease the nerves of anyone doing a study for the first time.”

Stephen admits that he will continue to take part in clinical trials as long as he needs to subsidise his income.

- Stephen’s real name was withheld at his request.


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