#2. Most Testing Is Futile
While some variation of what you're about to ingest might at some point make it to the drugstore shelf, chances are that you have just signed up for yet another medical pissing-in-the-wind project. Drug testing involves a whole lot of trial and error. Only one in 10,000 drugs makes it from early concept stage to legal status as medicine. Of the ones that make it to human clinical trial stage -- by which time most of the glitches should've been weeded out -- a staggering 80 percent never gain the FDA stamp of approval. In other words, four chances in five say your participation means precisely jack squat in the grand scheme of things.
"Turns out infecting people with syphilis doesn't control head lice."
What's more, drug trials on humans are wildly inaccurate. Clinical trials typically use a three-stage system that involves up to a few thousand willing participants. However, adverse reactions may only show up when the drug is taken by millions of people -- too many to get into a trial. In other words, they won't find out until the drug is already in distribution.
So even if your particular prototype drug happened to be among the precious 20 percent that eventually hit the shelves, there's no telling what it will do in the long term. Maybe it turns out to be the next Viagra, or maybe it proves to be another thalidomide. It happens all the time -- hell, Valium was on the market for 20 years before someone figured out that it's addictive.
"A drug that lets people forget all of their problems? It'll never catch on."
But let's face it, at the end of the day, you're doing this for the money. So, about that ...
#1. The Money Sucks
Look, risk or no risk, the point is that drug testing is a lot of money for not much time or effort. It's the risk that you're getting paid for, so if you don't wind up with neck dongs, then you've beaten the system. Right?
Oh, quit whining. They can probably just lance it.
Well, a $500 check for popping some pills for a couple of days sounds like good money ... that is, before you factor in exactly how much of your time the study is going to take. A good chunk of better-paying clinical trials involve staying in -- or at least visiting -- the lab for several days, for blood sampling and monitoring of the effects. So after you get that $500 check, more often than not you realize you're in minimum wage territory.
Take this seemingly sweet-ass deal:
Holy shit, $1,900 for a four-weekend thing! Who wouldn't want to take part in this, even knowing the risks? That's great money, even after you notice that the "four-weekend study" spreads those four weekends over nearly three months.
Or is it? If you get out a pad of paper and add up all of the hours they've asked for up there, you'll get 220 hours across the three months. Factor in, say, five hours for return-visit commuting, and you'll get a grand total of $8.44 per hour. That's a McJob wage right there, and at least they don't require you to inject the secret sauce and see what happens.
And if something horrible happens, you might get workman's comp.
One study found that the average hourly wage of guinea pigs was actually slightly more than that: some $9.50 per hour. Sure, it's more than minimum wage, but we can't help but feel that your health and safety are worth at least $10.
Don't get us wrong; human guinea pigs are needed, and most of the tests are pretty routine fare. Just don't be so surprised when you find yourself scratching that suspicious itch as you fill in your hard-earned petty cash in its very own "human experiment subject" tax form.