You mean I get paid $3,000 to pop sex pills?

For easy money, they signed up as “Paid Participants” for research trials.

After participating at a research facility last October, David (not his real name) can't wait to do it again. His daily routine was a sheer joy - watching TV, and playing pool and video games - which he interrupted every few days to pop "sex pills" to assist in a study to help married males overcome impotency.

At the end of his stay, the virile 27-year-old, a part-time swimming instructor, was paid almost $3,000, an amount some mid-level executives work one month to earn. It's quick money. It's easy money.

David is what the industry calls a "Paid Participant”, a healthy volunteer paid by a pharmaceutical company to test new drugs it hopes to market, in what is usually the first of four trial phases.

He and four others in their 20s - two students, a job seeker and a budding businesswoman - told The Sunday Times they did the study 'for the money'.

Making such good money is common in research facilities throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Getting into a “Paid Participant” program is easy. On average, a trial would need as many as 30 healthy volunteers.

Often, they are students or folks out of work. They receive an average of $1,000 a week. Some studies require, “Paid Participants” stay at the facility for specified periods while other studies require only visits or even just phone interviews from home.

“Paid Participants” are told from the outset what they are in for and they can walk out at any time and will be paid a pro-rated amount.

Volunteers like David have only pleasant memories of their time at the facility, and say they look forward to more trials. He relaxed before the TV or played games, feeling a pinprick only when nurses took blood samples.

Volunteers also get their creature comforts, such as a phone by the bed and Internet access. A 23-year-old undergraduate, who wanted to be known only as Joseph, described his stay as a 'paid holiday'.

'It's been about three months since the trial and I feel fine,' he said. 'I'm raring to go for another. The money is good and would pay for my travels.

-The Sunday Times


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