I had a problem. No matter how I looked at it, no matter how I crunched the numbers, I didn’t have the money. I was going to need at least an extra thousand bucks or touring Japan by Bicycle wasn’t going to happen. Second job? With only four months to go before departure, that wasn’t going to work. Credit cards? I’d rather not add a big chunk to what I’d been working to pay off. Lottery? Yeah, right.
Then it came to me. Those ads I’d seen on the subway, when I was unemployed and desperate. “Why Not Volunteer? Receive up to $4000! Clinical Trials! 18+.” At the time, they had been both tempting and ominous – what do they do to you for four thousand bucks? But now, given my present situation, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, and get some more information. And that is how I ended up doing drugs to feed my travel addiction.
The Low Down
The clinical trial I did was with a company called Algorithme Pharma, or Algopharm, here in Montreal. Their studies generally pay between $700-$4000, dependent on the length, # of blood draws, restrictions, etc. The average compensation is about $1400. Algopharm specializes in phase I and bio-equivalence trials. Phase I trials are first-in-human trials on healthy subjects (i.e. not the final users of the drug) designed to verify the drug’s safety and identify side-effects. Bio-equivalence trials (the kind I did) compare a drug on the market with a drug in development that is believed to act the same. Usually, the first drug is an established brand name formulation, and the second is a generic, up-coming formulation.
For me, from pre-screening to the final follow up visit the process took 2 months, and involved two 48-hours stays at the clinic 28 days apart. It also involved me getting a whole lot more comfortable with needles, because while the drug itself was just a pill, there was a total of around 30 blood draws, which is how they monitor the drug in your body.
That’s it about clinical trials for now. I made it out unscathed… or did I? Keep an eye out for Part 2, where I discuss the pros and cons of making travelling money through drug testing, describe my stay from start to finish, give a couple tips to prospective volunteers, and talk about how convenient my new third arm is!
Dylan is an applied linguist, an enthusiastic cyclist, and at least 33% of the Japan by Bicycle team. Meet the whole team here.