Using "clinical trial diaries" to track patterns of participation for serial healthy volunteers in U.S. phase I studies

J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2015 Feb;10(1):65-75. doi: 10.1177/1556264614568280. Epub 2015 Jan 20.


Phase I testing of investigational drugs relies on healthy volunteers as research participants. Many U.S. healthy volunteers enroll repeatedly in clinical trials for the financial compensation. Serial participants are incentivized to ignore restrictions on their participation, and no centralized clinical trial registry prevents dual enrollment. Little is currently known about how healthy volunteers participate in studies over time, hampering the development of policies to protect this group. We detail a methodology developed as part of a longitudinal study to track in real-time healthy volunteers' Phase I participation. Illustrating these data through three case studies, we document how healthy volunteers use strategies, such as qualifying for studies at more than one clinic and traveling significant distances, to maximize their participation. Our findings suggest that "clinical trial diaries" can generate critical information about serial research participation and point to ethical issues unique to healthy volunteers' involvement in Phase I clinical trials.

Keywords: Phase I; bioethics; clinical trials; healthy volunteers; pharmaceutical industry; professional guinea pigs; sociology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic / ethics*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection / ethics*
  • Records
  • United States
  • Young Adult