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Tips

Welcome to GPGP.net, The volunteers Information Resource. Built by Study Volunteers for Study Volunteers. Use this section to find out very useful information on how to best prepare yourself for clinical, medical, drug trials research. We include lots of valuable tips on conditions and what to expect.

Language concerns.
Be persistent.
Be polite.
Poppy seeds.
Passive smoking.
Blood donation.
Drinking binges.
Get a GP.
No GP in the USA.
US Social Security numbers.
Local residency.
Proof of address.
Smokers vs. non-smokers.
Competition.
Being a back-up subject.
Avoid getting sick.
Read the damn thing.
Don't mix your drugs.
Be flexible.
Pulling out.
Get a back-up plan.
Club Med trials.
The Jerry Springer crowd.
Behave yourself.
Mutiny on the unit.
Exchanging lists.
Take your medicine.
Do as you're told.
Rebuild your blood.
Flush your kidneys.
Waiting for the next one.
Use common sense.

Language concerns.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? For obvious reasons, most clinics will only accept volunteers who are fluent in the mother tongue of the country in which they are located. How adamant they are about this depends on the clinic, the country and what language you speak. For example, most clinic staff in the US and Britain are unlikely to speak any language except English, unless the clinic is in a heavily bilingual area such as Miami USA. In fact at least one Miami clinic is bilingual and will accept volunteers who can speak only Spanish. On the other hand, it is common for clinic staff in northern and central European countries to be fluent in English, so English speakers have been accepted at a number of European clinics. Still, tolerating foreign-language speakers is a burden on the staff, who have to repeat everything they say and translate consent forms, lists of clinic rules etc. Therefore, many clinics feel it is too much of a hassle, unless of course they have a need for volunteers which the natives are not filling.

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Be persistent.

When phoning to inquire about upcoming studies, be aware that not all clinics are big operations with full-time volunteer recruiters, and it may be necessary to ring more than once over a few days, as they may not get back to you unless they are desperate for volunteers at that time. It pays to be persistent, unless of course you overdo it and inundate them with phone messages to the extent that you annoy them.

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Be polite.

Try to sound polite, clear-headed and reasonable during the phone interview and any subsequent screening visit. While they are primarily interested in your health, personality can be a selection factor if the study has attracted a surplus of volunteers.

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Poppy seeds.

Before a screening, and before and during a trial, do not eat food containing poppy seeds. Poppy seeds often show up in a drug test as opiates, and to the clinic, a positive test is a positive test, period. (see below)

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Passive smoking.

Don't hang around people who are smoking marijuana, hashish, or crack cocaine. If you inhale some, it could result in a positive test. (Remember the Olympic snowboarder who almost lost his gold medal?)

Note that marijuana and hash, unlike most recreational drugs, require longer than a few days to pass out of the body. In fact they can often be detected in a drug test for up to a month after use because THC (the active ingredient) clings to the fat cells and metabolises very slowly. Also, be aware that if you test positive for any drugs at any time during a trial, you will usually be withdrawn and receive no payment.

Also, try not to inhale an excessive amount of second-hand tobacco smoke, as this could result in a positive test for nicotine.

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Blood donation.

Donating blood or plasma is not wise if you want to get on a medical trial in the near future, as it pays very little compared to most trials but will make it difficult for you to pass the blood tests when screening.

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Drinking binges.

Don't go on binges within a week prior to screening for a study. The alcohol will leave your body but your liver enzymes may be elevated, and your blood thinned, producing abnormal test results.

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Get a GP.

In Britain, you will probably need to give contact details for a doctor (General Practitioner) who will state you are healthy enough to participate in a clinical study. This is usually a formality and a way to verify the medical history you have provided. This requirement came about due to a schizophrenic volunteer in the mid 1980s who concealed his condition in order to get on a trial. Unfortunately, he took his medication the day before the trial started. When he was given the study drug, the two drugs interacted fatally.

If you are a foreigner in Britain, you probably won't have a local doctor. Still, there are up to 4 possible ways you could satisfy this requirement.

1) You can register with a local GP at no cost under Britain's NHS system. The process includes a routine health check, and is a simple matter for those holding Commonwealth or EU citizenship, who are therefore entitled to reciprocal health care. If you are not a Commonwealth or EU citizen, then you may have to visit several practices before you find one willing to accept you as an NHS patient. You might have to state your intention to live in the area for at least six months, and explain your need to satisfy the clinic's requirement that you provide them with a doctor to contact. Do not register as a "temporary patient", if you do you won't have a health check or a complete set of medical records on file, and some clinics may find this unacceptable. Remember also that you are supposed to register with a GP in your catchment area, so you should provide a nearby legitimate address where they will be able to send your NHS card or any other correspondence. In addition, be sure to give them a phone number they can contact you at regarding appointments etc.

2) If you have a doctor in your home country who can be contacted, this is acceptable to the majority of clinics.

3) Another possibility is to provide the contact number of a clinic at which you have taken part in trials before. This is probably only an option if you successfully completed multiple trials there in recent years, and if they keep files containing your medical history in their volunteer database. Be aware, however, most clinics do not retain this information. It also helps if there is a doctor or volunteer recruiter there who would know you.

4) A final option is to register privately. This is recommended as a last resort, and can cost anywhere up to 60, depending on the doctor.

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No GP in the USA.

American clinics don't require volunteers to have a doctor's consent, because the US doesn't have national health care and most people have to pay out of pocket just to speak to a doctor.

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US Social Security numbers.

ALL U.S. clinics need your social security number- period. Although they don't take out taxes, they are required to report any income over $600. There's no way around it. This has been law since the late 80's. You can give a phoney number, as some foreigners have, but don't plan on coming back to the States or the clinic, as the clinics are required to turn the #s in to be matched with the proper names that were assigned to the numbers. If they do NOT match then the clinic is notified by the IRS. The person using the false number is subject to arrest, deportation and/or jail.

TAX ID CARDS

Go to
http://www.irs.gov/ and search for w-7 form and print. After you filled in the form go to the nearest US embassy to have your signature notorized, you have to pay $20. Then send to the IRS office with form, copy of your passport and the notorized paper from the US embassy. Send your letter registered and after three weeks you will get your Tax ID Card #. With this card you can do trials all over US (including Hawaii).

SSN NUMBERS ARE BETTER TO HAVE

You may request Form SS-5 by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213.You can also access Form SS-5 on their web site at the following Internet address:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.html

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Local residency.

Some clinics will require volunteers to be "local residents", which usually means coming from within 50 miles/ 80 km. If there are any backpacker hostels in the local area, this is a perfect solution. Backpacker hostels are excellent for cheap, short-term accommodation in cities where you are screening for or awaiting a trial. Most will require a passport as "proof of travel". (see Links Page for further information.)

However, a few clinics go a step further and require that volunteers be "permanent" local residents. This means that using a temporary address to take part in a study is not considered acceptable. Therefore, if you need to use an "address of convenience" when dealing with such a clinic, be sure to have your address, postcode, and phone number memorised. They are bound to be suspicious if you have to think about it, or look for it in your pocket. Be aware that having a post office box for receiving mail does not make you a "local resident", unless you convince the clinic that you are actually living in the post office box.

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Proof of address.

It is also possible that the clinic will require you to show proof of your local address. Therefore, you might want to mail yourself a "letter" ahead of time to the address you will use, and notify the hostel, or friend whose place you will stay at, that you will be there soon.

Furthermore, clinics sometimes phone you to change or confirm a screening date etc. It is best if you have made arrangements with the hostel/your friend to take phone messages for you prior to your arrival. You don't want the hostel manager to say "no one by that name is staying here right now."

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Smokers vs. non-smokers.

If you want to be part of a study comparing "smokers" and "non-smokers", remember that "non-smokers" usually means "never ever smoked", not "used to smoke, but quit."

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Competition.

Remember that the most lucrative studies at the most popular clinics will be difficult to make, due to the high number of people willing to volunteer. This results in a highly charged, competitive atmosphere during the screening process as prospective research volunteers realise that everyone around them is a potential obstacle between them and the huge amount of money they are dreaming about. As if this wasn't bad enough, some clinics take advantage of this by screening up to 100 people when they need only 20-25. A few clinics abuse the situation entirely and lie about how many subjects they actually need. They inflate the number to make the odds of getting on seem more favourable, so that even more people will want to screen, which allows the clinic to select only "super-volunteers" whose blood tests, vital signs, and ECG results are absolutely perfect across the board. Don't avoid these studies (after all, you could be one of the chosen few), but go for them with your eyes wide open.

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Being a back-up subject.

Some of the more unscrupulous clinics will inform you of your acceptance onto a trial, only to break the news when you arrive on the day the trial starts, that you are actually "back-up subject #6." This means you have been placed on reserve status, and 6 people will need to fail the drug screen, be dropped for medical reasons, or fall in a ditch on the way to the clinic, in order for you to make the trial. The clinics that mislead volunteers in this way do so out of fear that back-up subjects won't show up if they know they are back-ups. Thankfully, most clinics tell you up front if you are going to be a back-up.

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Read the damn thing.

Read the informed consent form before you sign it. Yes, it is long and boring and full of medical jargon, but if you don't understand something, you need to ask questions about it.

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Avoid getting sick.

To avoid getting sick before an upcoming trial, it helps to get plenty of vitamin C, which is contained in most fruits and fruit juice especially oranges and kiwifruit. Also good at preventing colds are zinc (found in non-processed meat), and garlic (especially if eaten raw). Alternatively, you can find supplements of these in any health store or pharmacy. You can also use certain kinds of herbal extracts, the most popular being echinacea. (Also see FAQ #7 for further information.)

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Don't mix your drugs.

Do not take other medication close to or during a drug trial, as this could result in serious injury if the drugs interact badly.

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Be flexible.

If you can, try to be flexible about the trial dates, as these can sometimes change due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances.

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Pulling out.

If you are accepted onto a trial at a clinic and then decide to pull out, you face the possibility of being banned from future trials there. Usually, though, pulling out before a trial starts is tolerated unless you do it repeatedly. The more advance notice you give them, the better. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT just not show up! If you pull out during a trial without a medical reason, you are even more likely to be blacklisted, but most clinics pay you a prorated amount for the portion of the study that you complete. Beware however, a few clinics won't pay you anything unless you complete the entire study. This always is up to the individual clinic, and you should ask them about it, though their reaction might be one of suspicion. ("Do you expect to have to withdraw? Maybe you shouldn't volunteer then.")

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Get a back-up plan.

If possible, you should try to arrange a back-up study, in case you don't make the one you are trying for, or in the event it is cancelled, or delayed longer than you can afford to wait. At some clinics, studies are cancelled or pushed back with alarming frequency.

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Club Med trials.

While on a study unit, you may often hear other research volunteers talk about their experiences in previous studies. Some research volunteers, in an effort to impress, will invent their participation in numerous over-the-top adventures such as having their toe removed and then sewn back on, being paid $25,000 to have their heart stopped for 30 seconds, being paid $15,000 plus airfare to fly to Hawaii and have a vein removed from their arm, getting paid to smoke dope on a Jamaican beach, or staying in clinics with fabulous resort-style lodgings complete with tennis courts, swimming pool etc.(perhaps a Club Med Experiment?). You will find that if you press them for further details such as the name or phone number of the clinic in question, that they suddenly get confused or develop amnesia. Some are creative enough to conjure up a non-existent clinic in a fictitious city and say it is "somewhere north of Frankfurt, I think." Take these stories with a grain of salt. Don't get caught up in a fantasy world.

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The Jerry Springer crowd.

In some American clinics, you may encounter a few of the low-life element taking part in trials. These include homeless alcoholics who managed to stop drinking long enough to pass the screening, gangsters who carry attitudes when they can't carry weapons, hotheaded rednecks whose volatile behaviour is exhibited daily on the Jerry Springer Show, and hard-core prison types who try to intimidate others by threatening violence. Try to avoid these losers, without making it obvious you are trying to avoid them. The reason is that if they provoke a confrontation with you, then you risk being thrown out without pay if a physical altercation occurs. Many clinics will not bother to investigate who hit who, or who was at fault, but simply get rid of you both.

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Behave yourself.

Don't behave aggressively or complain too loudly - no matter how justified you might be in doing so. "Keep your eyes on the prize" i.e., the money you get after the trial.

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Mutiny on the unit.

Don't circulate petitions (or sign them) protesting your pay, or restrictions on the unit. Remember you agreed to these when you agreed to take part in the study. Usually this behaviour will get you banned from the clinic in the future.

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Exchanging lists.

If you exchange lists of clinics with other volunteers, or pay for one, be warned that some research volunteers have been known to change one digit of every phone number on their "trading copy."

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Take your medicine.

Do not "cheek" your medication. Most clinics are wise to this now, and even if not, your blood tests might look odd (as in way too normal).

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Do as you're told.

Follow the rules when you are in the clinic, as breaking them may result in fines, withholding of a bonus payment, or even immediate discharge (sometimes without pay) and a permanent ban from the clinic.

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Rebuild your blood.

After or between trials involving many blood draws, replenish your haemoglobin/red cell count by taking iron supplements; alternatively you can eat iron-rich food such as liver, spinach, and shellfish (oysters, clams, and mussels). Always wash it down with orange juice as this helps your body absorb the iron into your blood more rapidly.

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Flush your kidneys.

You can flush out your kidneys, before and after a trial, by drinking plenty of water as well as herbal tea, lemon juice, and cranberry juice.

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Waiting for the next one.

One peculiar difference between American and British clinics is that American clinics usually require a 30-day minimum wait between drug trials, while most British clinics require a 3 or even a 4-month gap. Such a disparity is difficult to understand, as the same pharmaceutical companies are testing most of the same drugs on both sides of the Atlantic. However, at some clinics the required wait can vary from 30 days to 4 months, depending on the type of drug your last trial involved and the type of drug they would give you, and whether these drugs are marketed (licensed) or investigational (unlicensed).

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Use common sense.

Above all, use your common sense. Being a research volunteer is not rocket science, but neither is it a pursuit for the mentally challenged.

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