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Paying Research Subjects: An Analysis of Current Policies

Neal Dickert, BA; Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD; and Christine Grady, PhD
[+] Article and Author Information

From W.G. Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.


Acknowledgments: The authors are grateful for the help and involvement of the representatives of participating organizations. They also thank persons who reviewed the manuscript. Names of these persons are not included to protect the confidentiality of participating organizations.

Grant Support: By W.G. Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health.

Requests for Single Reprints: Christine Grady, PhD, Department of Clinical Bioethics, W.G. Magnuson Clinical Center, Building 10/1C118, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1156; e-mail, cgrady@nih.gov.

Current Author Addresses: Mr. Dickert: 2626 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21224.

Drs. Emanuel and Grady: Department of Clinical Bioethics, W.G. Magnuson Clinical Center, Building 10/1C118, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1156.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: E. Emanuel, C. Grady.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: N. Dickert, E. Emanuel, C. Grady.

Drafting of the article: N. Dickert, E. Emanuel, C. Grady.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: N. Dickert, E. Emanuel, C. Grady.

Obtaining of funding: C. Grady.

Collection and assembly of data: N. Dickert, C. Grady.


Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(5):368-373. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-136-5-200203050-00009
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Background: Few data are available on guidelines used by research organizations to make decisions about paying subjects.

Objective: To analyze existing guidance regarding payment of research subjects and to identify common characteristics and areas for further research.

Design: Descriptive content analysis of policies.

Measurements: Written policies and rules of thumb about paying subjects from 32 U.S. research organizations.

Results: Of 32 organizations, 37.5% had written guidelines about paying subjects; all but 1 reported having rules of thumb. Few (18.8%) were able to provide a confident estimate of the proportion of studies that pay subjects. Organizations reported that investigators and institutional review boards make payment decisions and that both healthy and ill subjects in some studies are paid for their time (87%), for inconvenience (84%), for travel (68%), as incentive (58%), or for incurring risk (32%). Most organizations require that payment be prorated (84%) and described in the consent document (94%).

Conclusions: Most organizations pay some research subjects, but few have written policies on payment. Because investigators and institutional review boards make payment decisions with little specific guidance, standards vary.

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Summary for Patients

Paying Research Subjects: A Survey of Current Policies

The summary below is from the full report titled “Paying Research Subjects: An Analysis of Current Policies.” It is in the 5 March 2002 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 136, pages 368-373). The authors are N Dickert, E Emanuel, and C Grady.

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