Every year millions of volunteers take part in clinical trials for extra money. Some do it to pay off debt or finance a vacation, while others make it a supplement income to their living. Anyone willing to be a 'human guinea pig' can potentially earn thousands of dollars per year.
In 2006 Robbin Stewart came across an advert asking for participants for a clinical trial and discovered he could make money. Since then, he has participated in 50 different research studies.
"I did a couple of small clinical trials when I was in school, so I was aware of them. Then back around 2006, I was looking for a way to make money, and I got into doing them as a job.
“The trial I'm in right now is in Wisconsin, and it's a treatment for Hepatitis B. This is my fiftieth clinical trial. Money is the main reason I participate. I did four trials in 2020. It's like my profession. When most of us do jobs, we don't do it for what it is; we do it for work. You get paid, and you make a contribution to your living."
Participation not only provides Robbin with an income but also plenty of time off to do what he pleases.
“Some years are good. This past year I made $24,000, which was probably the best year ever, and then some years, I've broken even and not really made a lot. I got into it hoping I could make at least $10,000 a year, and I've generally been able to do that. I just need a little bit to live on. I'm kind of lazy, and my house is paid for. It gives me a lot of time off to stay on the computer all day.”
But money isn't the only motivating factor, so is the advancement of medical and scientific knowledge.
“That's also part of why I participate. I'm particularly happy when it is something like hepatitis where it actually matters. I am happy to be helping the fight against hepatitis, a major killer.”
Robbin has been involved in a range of trials for multiple conditions. And while side effects may sometimes be a hazard, they're not something he's overly concerned about.
“By the time they get to human trials, the treatments are pretty safe. I haven’t experienced a lot of side effects or anything like that. I did one in Missouri where I had a tingling sensation, especially in my hands.
“I am more concerned about how long a trial is going to take, where it will be, and how much it’s going to pay.”
Taking part in clinical trials suits Robbin’s lifestyle and, by and large, his income needs. For anyone who is considering taking the plunge, he has this to say:
“Give it a try. Not everyone is going to be healthy enough to do it, but you go in for a screening and find out if you're suitable or not. I think it's fun. A lot of people are scared away and wouldn't think about doing it, but for me, it's no problem.”