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What would you do for $4,250?

I always run out of quarters to do my laundry. I hardly ever use cash these days, preferring to use plastic cards with magnetic strips to pay for all my goods. But unless I get my cat to start licking all my clothes clean, I’ve got to feed the washing machine its diet of large, circular change. So I found myself in a long line at the bank at 11:30 on Saturday morning along with several other people who were cashing their paychecks or answering their cell phones despite very strict signage that prohibited such behavior.

I picked up a copy of our weekly liberal newspaper to read as I waited. I flipped past all the ads for “island temple healing” (are there islands in Indiana?) and “European whirlpool and body massage” (is there something special about European whirlpools? Does the water whirl in the opposite direction?) to find an ad on the back page for a medical research study asking me, “Healthy, but Overweight?” I don’t know why they needed to capitalize “overweight.” Perhaps the weight that word implies necessitates the use of a huge, round capital letter as a visual cue about the size and shape of the individual it is describing. It paid several thousand dollars and I was beginning to lament the fact that they hadn’t been doing this study last year when I was still fat but eating lots of green things that grow in the ground and running regularly, which surely qualified me as healthy.

I’m still technically overweight according to my BMI though, so I was wondering whether I could sneak into this study and get some easy cash. I looked through the bulleted list of requirements. Male or female? Why yes I am! Age 18-65? Check. Tobacco and nicotine-free? I’m so boring I’ve literally never smoked a cigarette. Then I noticed this:

“Females must be surgically sterile or postmenopausal.” Say what? How are my ovaries an issue here? Exactly what are they going to do to these fat people? Maybe there’s a reason they’re paying $4,250 dollars, and it’s not the fact that you have to stay 16 consecutive overnights at their center. I read that the film director Robert Rodriguez earned $7,000 to finance his first movie by submitting himself to experimental drug studies, if the Internet Movie Database is to believed. But it also said he had two divots in his arm as a result of the procedures, so I guess the man earned his money.

I suppose it’s for the best that I am no longer overweight nor am I surgically sterile or postmenopausal, though I’m glad I’m still healthy. Otherwise the study would be mildly tempting. However, if you live in Indiana and are fat, healthy, and really hard up for cash, it evidently pays pretty well to be a lab rat.

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20 Comments

Susan • August 29, 2007 at 9:09 am

That’s really creepy. But all studies need controls! Maybe you could negotiate?

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Mia • August 29, 2007 at 9:26 am

Hmmm. That’s no good. I’d rather have my cat lick my laundry clean than undergo that treatment, personally. Just to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe patients who were in the early stage of pregnancy would skew their data in some way. As you might know, it’s sometimes hard to know if you’re pregnant during those first weeks. However, pregnancy might make a difference on endocrine functions, and who knows maybe that’s what they are looking at??? I dunno. Staying away from medical experiments is always a safe choice! :)

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Marla • August 29, 2007 at 9:33 am

Obviously the treatment for obesity is sex-related, and they don’t want any paternity suits on their hands. I can just see the ads now: Magic Penis Treatment Cures Obesity!

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hopefulloser • August 29, 2007 at 9:54 am

I bet it’s because the treatment could possibly make you sterile and they wouldn’t want to take the risk of destroying someone’s reproductive organs.

Or it would severely hurt the fetus if you happened to be pregnant. Just like some medications require you take a pregnancy test and be on the pill before you can undergo treatment. But this ad looks much more serious than that.

Wow, how scary. Although I always stay on the lookout for medical studies, more for the help than the money.

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JanB • August 29, 2007 at 10:38 am

I bet it’s that the drug could have affects on a developing baby. They don’t want to risk a law suit. Oh well, that lets me out too.

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Jenny • August 29, 2007 at 10:46 am

Finally! Something for those of us that are older…. and for ALL the wrong reasons.

Creepy drug companies make me mad.

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Kate G • August 29, 2007 at 11:01 am

Ads for clinical trials always seem a little creepy to me – even the ones that are clearly legitimate like for NIH studies… but ones that promise payment seem even creepier! It is fascinating how much research is going on about weight loss and obesity. I looked at clinicaltrials.gov and found dozens of trials that are recruiting test subjects. For all kinds of studies – obesity and reproductive ability; weight loss after bariatric surgery; weight loss for schizophrenics. And even one that was going to see whether decreasing the variety in snack foods given to overweight people would help them lose more weight. I didn’t follow that one – I would think MORE variety would be better because you wouldn’t get bored. But I’m not a scientist so who knows. None of the government-sponsored ones offered payment. I do think it would be really interesting to do some of the genetics-related ones.

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Janice Bridge • August 29, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Definitely ruling out any complications or law suites resulting from accidental pregnancy in this test study group.

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Sarah • August 29, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Holy crap that’s one scary study!

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Dyan • August 29, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Um, have you ever seen a Robert Rodriguez movie? It makes you wonder what drugs they actually gave him….

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v'ron • August 29, 2007 at 6:07 pm

You can earn “up to” $4250.00. Hmmmmm.

As a Monty Python book points up, “the phrase ‘up to’ clearly includes the number ‘naught.’ ”

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Scale Junkie • August 30, 2007 at 12:18 am

I’m not one to take pills to lose weight…the words “anal leakage” come to mind and I’m so not going there!!!

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Megan • August 30, 2007 at 12:22 am

I don’t even want to know what kind of study they are doing that involves losing weight and potential loss of your reproductive organs. But you know it’s just the next step, if people are willing to put up with anal leakage at work, what WON’T they do to lose weight?

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John • August 30, 2007 at 1:22 am

Actually, there are some people who just do experiments as a living, relying on payments to survive. You can have a read about it from an interesting article in Wired magazine (the author takes part in an experiment into the Paleolithic diet) here http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.05/feat_drugtest.html

That was an interesting article. I think I’ll stick to my day job though :) Thanks, John! – PQ

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PastaQueen • August 30, 2007 at 9:56 am

I find it interesting what is implies about us that everyone is assuming the study is about weight loss. It actually doesn’t say *what* it’s for.

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lee • August 30, 2007 at 5:13 pm

i imagine they doing some creepy futuristic experiments and want to make sure they don’t end up with super fat pod babies floating in formaldehyde.

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JulieH • August 31, 2007 at 4:12 pm

I just read that article and it’s crazy! I guess they do have to try thing out on real people but I won’t be one of them!

Congradulations on your new and improved driver’s license. Just think of you hair as how you would look cruising around with the windows down, boppin’ to the radio :O)

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TeaMouse • August 31, 2007 at 9:23 pm

I was thinking about this post last night and I realized whatever they plan on doing could obviously affect the fertility of the participants – how scary is that. Even if you are sterile or have gone through menopause. As much as $4250 sounds good – I’d have to pass.

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Rdiddy • September 27, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Hmm. Stumbled on this looking for the “Indiana Island Temple of Healing”. Very interesting although this seems like somewhat of a “Half-Fascist” regime if you ask me, but I’m sure over time the fist will become less and less benevolent and the next thing you know, you’ll end up on an “Axis of Evil” list somewhere and get yourself “regime changed” if you’re not careful. (I definitely think you made a wise decision in staying away from that study. They lure in a lot of unsuspecting fascists that way because they know how weight conscious they tend to be).

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Elizabeth • February 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Fertile women aren’t allowed to take part in medical trials. It’s standard for all of them.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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