the guinea pig underground
May 1, 2007 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Drug Test Cowboys: The Secret World of Pharmaceutical Trial Subjects. Guinea Pig Zero is an occupational jobzine for people who are used as medical or pharmaceutical research subjects.
posted by nickyskye (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Funny, I thought about writing a similar article almost two years ago after a guy told me about GPGP, the weird people he met on 4 day drug study stays in Trenton and Baltimore who do this for a living, the 36 needle stabs, etc. The only problem was actually getting into a study as the pros are extremely competitive and protective about "the good ones," so I gave up on it. Good on Mr. McHugh, it's definitely a great story.
posted by The Straightener at 7:00 PM on May 1, 2007


I once saw an add soliciting frequent meth users for some sort of scientific experimentation.

That is all.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 PM on May 1, 2007


Fluoride treatments?
posted by Dizzy at 7:21 PM on May 1, 2007


From the wired link: "Nick is part of a growing subculture of human lab rats."

<ComicBookGuy>
Worst. Subculture. Ever.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:36 PM on May 1, 2007


Sometimes it doesn't go so well.
posted by Artw at 7:42 PM on May 1, 2007


A good treatment of the TGN1412 story is at Nature
posted by noble_rot at 7:53 PM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


What, you;re saying Nature is a better source than The Sun? :-)
posted by Artw at 8:31 PM on May 1, 2007


People's tendency to bring up the TGN1412 story in any discussion of clinical trials is a good illustration of the dichotomy of perceived vs actual risk (Bruce Schneier's summary here). Compare it to the injuries sustained in playing sport, or in manual labor work, and it starts to look pretty good.

The biggest problem with treating medical testing as a job is, as several of the articles point out, the fact that repeat business is too hard to find as compared to how the job pays. If you're looking into it as a slacker alternative to a desk job--and I can't blame anyone for that, I've had a spectacularly shitty couple of weeks at my own desk job, and the fantasy of being paid to take a pill that might even be a placebo three times a day is tempting--I suggest combining it with other part-time jobs. TV and film extra work, freelance writing, tutoring, assignment editing/formatting work, security work, and/or messenger work, for example.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:36 PM on May 1, 2007


OHGOD! You didn't close your comic book guy tag. This entire thread since has been in comic book guy voice!!
</ComicBookGuy>

Ahh... that's better
posted by !Jim at 8:53 PM on May 1, 2007


Some friends of mine in grad school once enrolled in a study that required them to smoke pot and then play video games. I believe it was testing the effect of marijuana on coordination and response time or something similar.

We all thought this must be the best study ever, until we heard from one of the guys that enrolled in it. Apparently they made him get incredibly stoned (and this was a fairly frequent smoker) and then all the doctors and study personnel around made him feel incredibly paranoid.

Another weird study my friends enrolled in was one that involved inhaling rice smoke and looking at lung function.
posted by pombe at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2007


Where's the line for the penis enlargement studies?

I see those drugs advertised all the time, so I can only assume there is a thriving test business for them.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2007


I've done two of these studies (though not in the US). They paid extremely well. But it can be boring wearing pajamas for a week, craving your usual vices, not even able to take a stroll outside.
posted by zardoz at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2007


I've done, hrm, maybe a dozen of these studies, maybe more. Mostly testing generic forms of regular drugs. Nobody tells you that you will get some permanent scarring inside of your arms from all of the sticks. Not quite track marks, mind you, but you can see a depression.
posted by adipocere at 9:30 PM on May 1, 2007


People's tendency to bring up the TGN1412 story in any discussion of clinical trials is a good illustration of the dichotomy of perceived vs actual risk

Maybe, but it;s also why no-one is going to really cry for you very much if you do one of these trials and your liver melts.
posted by Artw at 9:56 PM on May 1, 2007


I did a drug trial for an asthma drug when I was in middle school (~15 years ago). It actually helped me quite a bit; the drug I took worked much better than the inhaler I was using at the time. And my parents let me pocket most of the money they paid me (a few hundred dollars, if I remember correctly. I bought a lot of comic books that winter.)

But now I'm curious: how hard did my parents really think about this before letting me do it? Did any of these outcomes even occur to them?
posted by Rangeboy at 10:32 PM on May 1, 2007


Ah, the Austin days of Pharmaco. A great way for college students to make quick cash. Recently heard Robert Rodriguez (movie guy) say he, too, did Pharmaco tests while at U.T. No permanent marks, no weirdness from the meds (I'd like to think) and liver has yet to melt.

They had a decent set-up--places to study or read and a room with a big-screen TV. I watched the Tyson-Douglas fight there. It beat the hell out of working hundreds of hours at a part-time job to make the same cash.
posted by ambient2 at 11:24 PM on May 1, 2007


Artw Maybe, but it;s also why no-one is going to really cry for you very much if you do one of these trials and your liver melts.

I recall a whole bunch of crying around that incident, actually. People tend to cry more based on how much they liked the dead person, rather than the unlikelihood or otherwise of that person's death. The funerals of people in risky professions (soldier, police, racing car driver) are still treated as tragic events - often as more tragic, although dying in pursuit of a social good comes into this as well. Which arguably applies to at least some drug trials.

Rangeboy But now I'm curious: how hard did my parents really think about this before letting me do it? Did any of these outcomes even occur to them?

They probably did think about the danger to you, they probably gave it more weight than was warranted, as parents tend to do, and since they went ahead and let you do it anyway, it probably means they assessed the more-than-warranted risk as still low enough to let you do it. An over (or under) estimated risk can still lead to a safe outcome; in fact people over or under-estimate the risk of their everyday actions by very large amounts without this estimate prompting any change in behavior.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:24 PM on May 1, 2007


We called them Stick Pigs at USAMRID.
posted by MapGuy at 2:11 AM on May 2, 2007


Ah, I remember the days when I used to be paid $900 to live in a hospital for a few days taking cough medicine. The worst part was when they put a tube in my arm with a little tap on the end, but that was okay because it meant they just had to come along with a needle-less syringe and draw blood through the tap every hour instead of sticking me with another sharp thing.

Met some strange people there, like the guy I beat 9 times at chess (plus a draw, no losses) - he kept coming back for yet another humiliating defeat. I remember sitting there waiting for him, knowing that he was only one move away from mate, trying to stay calm, when the nurse came around to take vital signs. I must have been pretty tense because she made me promise not to play chess around vital-sign-taking time again. I think my pulse rate was about 100. He didn't get the hint and the game lasted another 20 seconds.

I always said no to the nastier-sounding ones, like the hepatitis antiviral which promised great money but (according to one of the nurses) was stopped after the subjects developed giant bruises all up their arms from the injections. Hope there were no long-term effects.

My dream was one of the morphine studies that seemed to exist only in legend. Ah, sweet morphine...
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:57 AM on May 2, 2007


Funny, I thought about writing a similar article almost two years ago

The topic is a favorite of alt weeklies and college newspapers nationwide, though I suppose it doesn't lose much in the retelling.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:50 AM on May 2, 2007


On the Stern show about a year ago, they had a guy who made a living as a learning aid for medical schools, teaching testicular/prostate exams. Last I heard, he started an agency placing willing participants with medical schools and making money *cough* hand over fist.
posted by dr_dank at 7:00 AM on May 2, 2007


"Maybe, but it;s also why no-one is going to really cry for you very much if you do one of these trials and your liver melts."
posted by Artw

Are your own tears so very, very precious?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:19 AM on May 2, 2007


For those wondering about the safety of these sorts of trials, they are actually two parts of human testing. The first is performed on healthy people for a relatively short amount of time and dosage. This establishes the relative toxicity of the compound. If this first stage of testing has gone well, no severe side effects, the second stage testing for effectiveness is put into place, this generally involves less safety risk and the drug is tested on people who have the illness. This portion of testing usually involves much more people and for longer duration.

So if you decide to be a guinea pig you should factor in which stage of testing you are involved in.
posted by estronaut at 9:51 AM on May 2, 2007


So if you decide to be a guinea pig you should factor in which stage of testing you are involved in.

I hope that no-one has so many illnesses that they can make a living testing treatments for efficacy.
posted by atrazine at 3:43 PM on May 2, 2007


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