Omaha resident Pam Ford has participated in several clinical trials in the last 2 years. She likes participating in efforts to get low cost generic drugs on the market and doesn’t mind the free health care she gets along the way.
But these aren’t her primary motivations. “It’s absolutely to make extra money,” she told the Boston Globe, and if that’s the case, she’s not alone.
The US economy shed 2.5 million jobs last year, the most since 1945. No region or sector was spared and the unemployment rate stands at 7.2%.
During the Great Economic Crisis of ’08-’09, record numbers of people are applying for positions in clinical research trials that pay participants up to several thousand dollars in return for a commitment of between a few and several weekends to various clinical protocols.
At Omaha-based Qualia Clinical Services for example, the participant database has risen from 9,000 to 16,000 in the last year. Qualia handles Phase 1 testing of generic drugs on healthy volunteers.
And the pool has grown more diverse than the usual college crowd, according to Steve Peck, director of operations. The trend is large enough to possibly convince some clinical research organizations to cease outsourcing early phase trials to developing nations like India.
The weakening economy has probably also helped increase plasma donation rates by 50% in the last 2 years, according to Josh Penrod, VP of the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association.
Penrod added that payment is essential to assuring an adequate supply of blood products. Plasma collection centers develop their own payment rules, although overall compensation and time commitment remains a small fraction of that associated with clinical trials.