Students participate in medical research studies

Lizzy and Joanne Linford stand outside Icon Health Studies as Joanne prepares for her weeklong study. Icon Health Studies offers individuals compensation for participating in medical research. (Photo courtesy of Joanne Linford)

Paid research opportunities are available through medical research facilities and college campus departments. Research centers compensate hundreds and even thousands of dollars for a single study, according to former participants. 

Joanne Linford, a bioinformatics student at BYU, participated in two longer research programs with Icon Health Studies in Murray, Utah. Both times, the center was testing a new version of a drug.

After a phone screening to assure she was a good candidate for the study, Linford said Icon Health Studies sent her a packet which explained possible risks and basic information about the drug they would be testing, as well as findings from previous studies. According to Linford, the main portion of the study is an overnight stay, the duration of which may vary.  

Her overnight stay lasted for a week. During the week, they administered the drug on trial to her and ran regular blood tests. The study included several subsequent follow-up appointments, according to Linford. For this study, the clinic compensated her $10,000.

“I always recommend it to people … I haven’t had any bad experiences,” Linford said.

Linford said she has never experienced any side effects while participating in a study. Her sister, Lizzy Linford, had a different experience. 

Lizzy Linford participated in a study at Icon Health Studies in which they were testing a child seizure medication that could be taken as a pill instead of an injection. While participating in the study, she experienced a mild allergic reaction to an ingredient in the test drug and broke out in hives toward the end of the weeklong period, when the dosage was increased. Lizzy Linford said the experience was not painful. 

“The hives were uncomfortable as they happened, but it was honestly … absolutely hilarious … it’s a good story now,” she said.

She said she enjoyed her study immensely, regardless of the side effects she experienced. 

In addition to receiving a $6,500 compensation for her 10-day study, Lizzy Linford said she learned a lot about medicine and science from the team of people running the study. She said it was a fun experience and she was able to work remotely while staying in the facility. 

Lizzy Linford said she did not feel nervous about testing out a new version of a medicinal drug. 

Joanne Linford waits to begin a study in a room at Icon Health Studies. Participants stay in a hospital-like room for the duration of the study. (Photo courtesy of Joanne Linford)

“No matter what, the drug needs a test, so why not me? And they’re paying me, and that was nice,” she said. 

She advised each person who is thinking about participating in a medical study to do their own risk calculation and go over the information packet thoroughly. She said each study is testing something different and poses different risks. 

Kayla Taylor, a senior in the nursing program at BYU, said research is a crucial aspect of the ever-evolving medical field. It is equally important to ensure the studies are ethical and credible, she said.

Taylor said a review board approves studies before they are carried out and published. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, this review organization is called the Institutional Review Board.

“Under FDA regulations, an IRB is an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects,” according to the FDA website.

According to the ethics and compliance page on the Icon Health Studies website, all of the facilities’ studies are reviewed by an IRB and follow guidelines set by the FDA. Potential research subjects are led through an informed consent process, according to the page.

Oakley Holmes, a dental hygiene student at UVU, participated in a paid study three years ago after seeing a flyer on campus for a facility called JBR Clinical Research Utah. She visited the website and applied to participate. According to Holmes, research facilities only accept healthy adults with no underlying health conditions. 

JBR compensated Holmes $500 to get her wisdom teeth removed while numb but awake, and then be observed overnight. During the night, research staff administered either the test medication, normal pain medication or a sugar pill which acted as a placebo. 

Holmes said before the study she was nervous she would receive the placebo pill and be in pain. She said while it was not a pleasant experience, the staff made it as comfortable as possible, and the money compensation was worth it. 

“I feel like I knew that I was in good hands, and they go over everything beforehand and give you all the information … the doctors are very qualified to do this,” Holmes said.

Students can find paid study opportunities which are less time-consuming and do not include overnight stays on college campuses. Programs such as exercise science, linguistics and more are frequently seeking study participants.

According to BYU’s College of Life Sciences, compensation for some studies in the exercise science department is as high as $50 in cash. Studies for tests in the Department of Linguistics offer course credit or Cougar Cash, according to their website.

Mary Beth Wald, manager of the linguistics office and graduate program, said there are many benefits of participating in campus department studies. Graduate students who are doing research projects for their thesis lead many of the studies, according to Wald.

Wald said participating in these studies not only contributes to the graduate students’ research, but provides interesting and educational experiences. The subject can see unique things, like their own brain waves displayed on a screen.

“I think beyond the compensation is just being part of some research,” Wald said.

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