Participating in clinical trials can be lucrative and enticing – here’s how to spot the fake ones

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Can you make the pandemic pay off for you by joining in a clinical trial? Social media is full of ads claiming you can do just that but are they real or just scams?

“On social media, we see a lot of advertising that is fake,” said Catherine Honeycutt of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina. “They seem enticing. They offer rewards for being part of trials and things like that, but they are oftentimes scams.”

But not all advertisements are scams. Some are placed by legitimate companies like Acurian Health. It runs a lot of ads trying to get volunteers for clinical trials.

Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia wanted to know more about the firm, so he checked them on with the BBB website.

The company has 27 listed complaints against it and also has an “F” rating with the BBB.

Many of the complaints are about the way the company markets itself. Many people told the BBB they had unsolicited contacts by Acurian Health.

The BBB says you need to be wary of ads offering money for trials.

“Most of the time with any clinical trial you are not going to see a social media advertisement and a guarantee of compensation,” said Honeycutt.

So, what is Acurian Health doing? On its Facebook page, the company offers an explanation. It says they “Help connect people.” Specifically, it says, “They carefully match thousands of people to hundreds of research studies all over the world.”

In other words, Acurian Health does not do the testing.

When Sbraccia messaged them, he got what appeared to be an automated response which directed him to a page to find a study.

Clicking that brings you to a list of scores of medical conditions, from Autism to Vaccine studies.

When Sbraccia chose a link for a COVID-19 study it took him to a page that started asking for personal information like his age and email address

Using that information and more, the company finds a study for you. But how do you know if the study is legit? There is a way to check it out independently.

The National Institute of Health runs a website listing over 300,000 clinical studies in this country and worldwide.

The NIH database says the studies it lists are both privately or publicly funded.

Remember, a real clinical trial is never going to ask you to pay upfront to be part of a study. Also real trials won’t ask for your social security number, what it will ask are a lot of questions about your medical history.

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