What you need to know if you are a student taking part in clinical trials

The costs of higher education have undoubtedly increased in recent years and students have to be creative when considering how to pay their way through university.

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Government and private student loans, bursaries and scholarships and working part-time are all viable first-line options, but alternative income sources such as volunteering for medical trials that pay are also worth considering. There is an ever-increasing demand, with more than one-quarter of paid UK clinical trials finishing early due to a lack of suitable participants.

What can you expect?

On a phase 1 clinical trial, you can expect an approximate daily rate of £120. This might involve screening, medical examinations and the signing of a consent form accepting the marginal risks involved. Medical studies that pay can also involve a clinic stay and extensive follow-ups. Food and board are included. Participants are not technically paid for the marginal risk they are taking; instead, they are paid for their discomfort and time. The experience can be financially rewarding but challenging at times for some students.

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Duty of care

Any company offering clinical trials owes the participants a duty of care, with all drugs being put forward screened by the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the Ethics Committee. The risk posed by the drugs are usually minimal and the real difficulties normally stem from the inconvenience involved in attending check-ups and adhering to the potential requirements of the trials, such as the timing and nature of food and alcohol intake. Payments can be reduced if these requirements are not met.

Inconvenience is the main consideration as far as medical studies that pay are concerned. This can be managed by careful time scheduling – the financial rewards are significant with little in the way of active participation from the student. Your time is your own in the clinic around any medical requirements and can be used to your own ends, such as for revision or study. Most universities and colleges will advertise organisations; for example, trials4us offer medical studies that pay and will explain things carefully and walk you through the process.

This is something to at least consider as an alternative means of university funding and holistically to improve the standard of living for many people in a potentially ground-breaking direction.

rare disease research

Infographic provided by The Emmes Company, a rare disease research organization