NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Would you donate your body to science while still alive? Hundreds of thousands of people participate in clinical trials every year, some of them to make money, others to find cures.
“New drugs often get tested for first human safety purposes — not to see if they cure anybody, just to see if there are any side effects. Companies hire people to do that,” bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan tells CBS2.
Companies hire people like Steven Turner, who has earned nearly $7,000 acting as a human guinea pig.
“A friend of a friend told me it was a quick way to pick up some cash,” Turner said.
Testers can make anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on the trial.
But to ensure results aren’t undermined, the rules are strict. Some trials are “live-in” and participants’ interaction with the outside world is limited. They eat only what the clinical trial provides and sleep when told.
“A lot of people think it’s the money but you don’t want to ignore the risks,” Caplan said.
Caplan said there are potential side effects.
“The No. 1 thing to be thinking about is if they’re paying me a considerable amount of money, there must be a considerable amount of risk,” Caplan said.
“They poke a vein and they hang up a bag of clear liquid. The first couple of times it’s very disconcerning because you don’t know what they’re putting into you,” volunteer Steven Hurd said.
Hurd is also participating in a clinical trial, but for a very different reason.
“I’m not alone in suffering from Lupus. There’re many people out there,” he said.
With no cure for Lupus in sight, Hurd said he feels responsibility to donate his body to researching the often crippling disease.
“Otherwise we’re never going to develop any additional medications,” Hurd said.
Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Institute in Manhasset said clinical trials have eliminated some diseases that were commonplace killers—but there are countless more diseases to be cured.
A lack of participants is the biggest hindrance to progress, Tracey said.
“Without the participation of the people in the clinical trials, some of the best ideas will stay ideas,” he said.
For anyone interested in getting involved in a clinical trial, click here for a list of thousands of options that are closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.