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What to know about participating in a paid clinical trial

Most clinical trials come with financial aid of some form, but the amount offered and the form it is offered in can vary from trial to trial. The one major rule that the FDA enforces is that payments should never be presented in a way that could coerce a patient to do something that he or she would not otherwise do.

Keep in mind that the FDA states that payment should be made periodically throughout the study. In other words, being paid or reimbursed for participating should not depend entirely on completing the whole study. You should always feel safe and never feel forced to follow through with a study if it isn't in your best interest.

Finding a clinical trial that offers payment

To find a paid clinical trial, you can follow these general steps of finding and applying to any clinical trial. The one special note is that almost all platforms that list available clinical trials will not specify how much payment is given to participants, as it varies from location to location. To find out the compensation amounts, contacting the study team for the location closest to you is the easiest way to get that information. If you need help reaching the study team to find out how much compensation is offered for participating, services like Clara Health can help you get started!

While most clinical trials offer the treatment for free, the amount of extra reimbursement and compensation can depend on the condition the trial is targeting, as well as the phase the treatment is in. For example, phase 1 studies tend to compensate participants much more, and so do studies that are looking for healthy participants or patients with chronic conditions.

Different types of payments

A few models exist that structure how different studies outline their finances. It is important to ask questions and understand which model the researcher is using for your trial.

  1. Reimbursement Model
    The participant provides receipts for reimbursable activity -- primarily gas, parking, lodging, and meals. This can even include reimbursement for lost wages.

  2. Wage-payment Model
    Participants earn a standardized hourly “wage” offered as compensation for their participation. This amount is based on the time and effort required of the participant.

  3. Appreciation Model
    This tends to come in the form of a token of appreciation at the end of the study. Unlike the other three models, it has little impact on study recruitment and is more likely to require study completion.

Taxes and compensation

If you have enrolled in a clinical trial, you may have to revisit your payment records come tax season.

The IRS requires that payments over $600 for clinical trial participation must be reported on tax returns.


Reimbursements (or any other payments based on receipts which cover expenses incurred by the participant) are excluded from this requirement.

President Barack Obama’s “Ensuring Access to Clinical Trials Act of 2015” allows patients with rare diseases to receive up to $2,000 per year without having the payment count as income. It also, won’t jeopardize eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.