being paid to be a guinea pig?

ok, i’m not sure if this is the right forum for this or not. originally i was going to go in general questions, but i am afraid of manhatten, so i’m posting here.

has anybody here ever signed up for one of those programs where they pay you to test food additives and stuff? here in baltimore there are TONS of these adds in newspapers for people to test stuff for johns hopkins medical center. most of them need people who are either coke addicts or hiv positive, but there are a couple that just need healthy non-smokers.

since i am a poor college student who needs money BAD, and cant find a regular job that is just for the month of january, i was planning on signing up for one of these things. 620$.

but one of my friends was telling me it was really a bad idea. so: has anyone here ever done one of these experiments? or known anyone who has? how did it turn out? were the side-effects bad or not so much? was it worth it?

any information greatly appreciated,

I haven’t done it myself, but Robert Rodriguez did. It’s one of the ways he made money to finance his film, El Mariachi. He wrote a book called Rebel Without a Crew that is basically a compilation of his daily journal. He tells about his experience as a “lab rat”, and talks about some of the tests done with other people. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, and the book is packed away. If you can find a copy, you can read about the process as it related to at least one person.

No, I haven’t but there must be web pages by people that have doen this & hideous reactions (or by people who have done it & made lots of money really easily)!

Yup - I did a quick search on searching on:

medical test subjects

& got quite a few sites & interesting looking synopses back. If you don’t get anything here, that’s your best bet.

You might get a better response in IMHO - that is a polling forum, but whatever you do - don’t double post it to there too, that’s a good way to get both threads closed.

I live in Richmond, VA, which is home to the Medical College of VA (another huge, teaching hospital). The same types of studies are conducted here. I figured, though, that there was probably also a fertility clinic associated with the College. Bingo! I made $300 as a sperm donor. I figured, hell, I’m doing it anyway, why not get paid for it.

I haven’t done any of the major studies, but I agreed to be a lab rat for a short study. I think it paid about $50. It was a study on panic attacks, and there was a chance that during the experiment I’d get a dose of something that would make me feel like I was having one. I had to wear a rubber mouthpiece (like a scuba thing) to measure my breathing. I did get the medicine (at least it sure felt like it–they don’t tell you) but it wasn’t TOO terrible. I was happy to help advance their research, particularly since a good friend of mine was a panic attack sufferer. And yes, I needed the cash. I looked at the ones that pay $300 or more, but they’re too involved for someone with a young child.

Being a researcher myself, I know the importance of getting participation. I try to support all the requests for research participation I can (the short, easy ones). I also tend to answer surveys when asked. We take our son to the infant development research center here, too. He gets paid a paltry $10, which sure isn’t going to put him through college, but I like the idea that we’re helping to advance knowledge.

I have a freind who was a checmist for a large chemical company. (Think birth control pills) They used volunteer employees for much of their testing. He did it several times, without incident. The only REAL problem that he even heard of (and since it was employees, it was hard to keep anything quiet) was a guy with a really bad allergic reaction. That’s something that can’t always be forseen.
I say, find out what they want exactly before you sign up.
You don’t want to think you are testing a new drug and end up locked in a closet for 3 days, doing sensory deprivation studies!

I used to work at a large teaching and research hospital. I was admitted as a control subject to test blood glucose levels with and without this amino acid. I spent four mornings in the hospital as a patient. The first day, all I got was water. The second day, I got this horrible-tasting amino acid powder. It was like eating styrofoam pellets. The third day, I got glucose solution, and the fourth day, I got both. My blood was drawn every ten minutes for four hours. (The nurse put in a saline lock to draw from, so I wouldn’t have to be stuck every 10 minutes for four hours)

If you’re interested in this, check with large research hospitals. Most of the time, they have at least something going on.


If you’ve got a studyable, non-fatal disease (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome) you might be able to find a year-long study.
I’ve been in two clinical trails for different contact lenses.
Be careful what study you sign on with, because sometimes the next research does not what anybody who’s been a rat in the past year. Another thing, make sure you will be making more money than it will cost you in travel expenses.
Good Luck.

I did various psych research projects when I lived near a large university. Mostly that was behavioral testing, and paid $10-$20 per test. Tests usually took about 2 hours.

Hubby did a medical research project testing meds - paid around $1200 for 3 weeks of testing, but he was kept in the hospital the whole time for observation.

–tygre who also sold plasma for $15 a pop when realllly poor…

Actually, I used to run these studies at JHU (Bayview campus) and now run them here at MCV in Richmond!

(note to plnnr: check Style Weekly in early January if you are interested).

Clinical research can be a great way to earn some money providing that you can live with the inconvenience of participation. Usually, the more $$ the more inconvenience.

If you are interested you should call to ask the general details of the study. My staff are trained to tell callers: the time commitments, the $$ benefits, and the big drawbacks (e.g., blood sampling, cigarette abstinence, etc). That way, people who figure the $$ isn’t worth the hassle don’t have to come in to the lab for no reason.

If you think the $$ IS worth the hassle, make an appointment to go over the consent form in detail. Every reputable clinical study will have a consent form that describes all study procedures as well as all the risks and all the benefits of participation. You should also have the opportunity to ask an investigator any questions that you have.

If you are still interested, and decide to consent, PLEASE FOLLOW ALL STUDY RULES AND TRY TO COMPLETE THE STUDY. In most cases, your data cannot be used if they are not complete, so your partial participation wastes lots of time and money.

Virtually all clinical researchers put participant safety as their NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. Based on my three-year experience at Hopkins, you will be in very good hands.


If it’s in Baltimore, I assume you’re talking about PharmaKinetics.
I did one of the longer studies last year-about two weeks, and made $1200 for about forty hours “work” and three overnights (sleeping @ the lab).
I thought it was pretty decent. Food was provided, nothing special, but free, and the people were definitely , umm, interesting. You had a nice skew between the “poor college student” and “working my way off skid row and eager to get some new anti-psycho meds for free” demographics.
I’d do it again, but a lot of it depends on what you’re studying. If it’s a new and improved antihistamine, or like a antinflammatory, it’s no biggie. If they’re testing something to treat an acute condition, you might be SOL if it didn’t work. I think it’s decent. Playstation, videos, etc.

Oh, and for the Onion’s take, peep this:

The OP said JHU Med Center. PharmaKinetics is a reputable group in Balto, though they are for profit, as opposed to “for knowledge”. Of the two, I’d rather be a participant in a JHU project, hands down.