Clinical trials can take a significant time commitment, and investigators recognize this. Depending on the study, you may be provided compensation for your time and willingness to be part of the research process.
If you’re interested in joining a clinical trial, compensation could help ease your concerns about participation, after weighing all the benefits and risks together. However, payment to participants in clinical trials is a tricky subject, as regulations exist to ensure that money is not offered unethically as a reason to participate in a study.1
Learn more about the factors that determine compensation in clinical trials.
Why Participate in a Paid Clinical Trial?
Paid clinical trials are a great way for people to give back to the scientific and medical communities. Some healthy people volunteer to help advance medicine, while others living with a certain condition can receive a potentially beneficial treatment.
When you join a clinical trial, all of your study-related healthcare costs are covered by the investigators. For some, joining a clinical trial may be a way to have additional study-related physical exams, bloodwork, or other tests done for no extra charge. People living with a disease or condition who join clinical trials to try an investigational treatment may also benefit from the extra care or hospital stays required by a study.
Paid Trials and Informed Consent
While the idea of being paid to join a clinical trial may be enticing, it’s important to remember that you’re being compensated for not only your time, but the potential risks to you as well. Before you can join a clinical trial, you must first meet with the study investigators so they can obtain informed consent. This is a consent process in which the investigators tell you about the study, including information on:
- The length of time the study will take
- The treatment you’ll be receiving
- The risks and benefits to you
- Any tests or blood work to be done during the study
- Your compensation
- Your right to refuse treatment or leave a study at any time
The investigators will also discuss when you’ll receive your compensation payments and what happens if you leave a study early. Most studies pay people over time for their compensation, such as after every check-in, visit, or test. This is to ensure people do not feel “forced” into completing a study because they are only paid at the end of the study. As a participant, you’re guaranteed the right to leave a study at any time. However, if you leave a study early, you won’t be paid the maximum amount.
How Much Do Clinical Trials Pay?
Each clinical trial is different, and investigators take into account the total time commitment for joining the study. As a participant, you can be compensated for:
- Phone call visits you have with the investigators
- In-person visits
- Time for study-related bloodwork, imaging, and other tests
- How long the study lasts
- Time for logging symptoms or tracking information relevant to the study (keeping what is known as a patient diary)
For example, clinical trials that involve answering questions in a phone or in-person interview will tend to pay less than those that require doctor’s office or hospital visits. Other low-paying clinical trials include those that only require providing a specimen, such as saliva, blood, or a nasal swab.
Find Clinical Trials Near Me
Interested in clinical trials? Simply search by postal code and type of condition to see what’s going on in your area.
The condition and risk to you can also affect how much you’ll be paid. For example, healthy volunteers typically join phase 1 clinical trials. These studies are testing an investigational drug, medical procedure, or device that hasn’t been tried in humans before. Given this, there’s likely more risk in these trials than in joining a research study in a later phase. Potentially because of this, Phase 1 clinical trials tend to pay more than other phases — a study found that the median compensation for phase 1 clinical trials is $3,070 (with a range of $150 to $13,000).2
Even though phase 2 or 3 clinical trials on average may offer less compensation than phase 1, phase 2 or phase 3 trials often still pay hundreds or up to a few thousand dollars per participant.3
It’s important to know that compensation offered by a clinical trial is meant to cover a participant’s time and risk and is not intended to be a source of income or stipend. Though determining this is a fine line, those who design research studies and set compensation levels try to make sure that they do not offer amounts that would distort people’s decision-making about what is best for them.1
You should have realistic expectations about compensation as a result of participating in a clinical trial. Researchers have found that it is exceedingly rare for even frequent study participants—those who participate in multiple studies each year, for example— to be paid significant amounts. Even among the most frequent clinical trial participants in one analysis, the median compensation from trial participation was less than $10,000 in a year.2
Joining a Paid Clinical Trial
If you’re interested in joining a clinical trial, be aware that typically, investigators don’t list compensation outright in the description of clinical trials online to avoid unethical recruitment of participants. Instead, you can start by looking for studies you qualify for and are interested in on the studies’ merits, then meet with the investigators to discuss joining.
All clinical trials have inclusion and exclusion criteria you must meet in order to join. Inclusion criteria include being a certain age or having a disease or condition. Exclusion criteria include taking certain medications or having underlying health conditions that can interfere with study results. If you qualify for a study, the investigators will talk to you about compensation for joining as one part of understanding your potential participation.