Interviews With People Who Have Interesting or Unusual Jobs
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Kameron Bashi, Pharmaceutical Guinea Pig.
Q: Your sole income is from participating in pharmaceutical tests. Is that correct?
Q: And you are able to make a fair amount of money this way?
A: They usually pay between two hundred and five hundred dollars a day.
Q: How much would you say you made last year?
A: Around $20,000-$25,000.
Q: Where do you find places that pay you to do this?
A: On Craigslist, in the “Etc.” section. There will be an ad like: Come try this drug, 100-something dollars a day.
Q: Where do you go to participate in the tests?
A: There are a number of different places where I do these things. Sometimes it’s part of a hospital, other times it’s in a hospital-like setting.
Q: What is the typical length of a study?
A: I guess three or four days for short ones; longer ones are three weeks. I once did one for 35 days, and that is like the Holy Grail of studies, because they pay so much.
Q: What do your friends think of this?
A: They think it’s great.
Q: Are they jealous?
A: They might be a little, but I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs. All of my friends smoke weed, so they couldn’t do this. You also can’t have caffeine, chocolate, and, for some reason, grapefruit.
Q: How does a test work?
A: They give you a physical, take blood, blood pressure, urine.
The first test I did was for athlete’s foot. Most tests are for more serious conditions, though, like HIV, cancer, or diabetes.
Q: So you put the lotion on your foot and then what happened?
A: Athlete’s foot was a pill. Each drug is different, but it’s almost always pills. I was injected once, and had intravenous once, but it’s usually a pill.
Q: Is there a chance you’ll get a placebo?
A: Yeah. For each test, there are about 10 people, and two will get the placebo.
Q: So you take a pill and then they monitor you?
A: Yes. You might take the drug once, or every day for weeks.
Q: Are you hooked up to machines?
A: Sometimes. Usually you take the drug and they watch you for an hour or two. They make sure you don’t go to the bathroom, because you might try to throw up the pill.
Basically, then you talk to people, watch TV, that kind of thing. You see the same group of people all the time. I’ve seen the same people for the two years that I’ve been doing this. We all sort of know each other. We talk about where we’ve been—how you can get $8,000 for a study here, $4,000 for a study there.
You can never leave; you’re stuck inside. It’s a cross between being in the hospital and being in jail. It definitely has a confinement feel to it.
Q: So they feed you?
A: Yeah. They feed you school-cafeteria-type food.
Q: Once you did the first test, did you decide you liked doing this kind of thing?
A: I wasn’t completely convinced the first time. It was a whole world I knew nothing about. You get a number and then they refer to you by it the whole time. Like, “Number 10, come in.”
During the first test, I was getting stuck by a needle every 15 minutes for two hours, then every half-hour, then every hour. I didn’t like the constant needle-sticking. So then I went to other places and they don’t do that. They give you a blood catheter.
Q: What is that, exactly?
A: They put a needle in your arm and leave it there and whenever they want blood they can just connect a tube to the thing.
Q: Don’t these places think that you might have a bad reaction to their drug because you’ve taken so many other drugs previously?
A: You’re supposed to wait 30 days between tests. There are a few of these places on the East Coast—some in New Jersey, in Baltimore, and in Philly. These places don’t communicate with each other, so you don’t necessarily have to really wait 30 days.
Q: Are you participating in anything right now?
A: I have to go to New Jersey tomorrow (Wednesday) and then it starts on Sunday. I’ll go in on Sunday, then leave on Friday.
Q: What do your parents think of this?
A: They are sort of apprehensive. They think I’m strange, but they know I don’t want to work.
Q: Can I ask how old you are?
A: I’m 24 years old.
Q: How long do you think you’ll do this?
A: I don’t know. I’ll probably get a job at some point.
Q: Do you worry about side effects?
A: No. Maybe I should but I don’t.
Q: Is it a good place to meet girls?
A: There actually aren’t many women who do this. There is something about dangers to a fertile woman. I suppose if you’re menopausal or have had a hysterectomy you can do it. But it’s about 98 percent guys.
Q: Have you ever had anything bad happen?
A: I’ve had some mild side effects. I’ve been nauseous and I’ve vomited twice. Once I took a painkiller, which was an opiate, and I was constipated for a week. But I’ve never had anything really bad happen.
Not all of the drugs that I try have been tested in man. But if you take prescription drugs, this is part of the reason you’re able to do it.
Q: Would you recommend this as a way to earn a living?
A: I would recommend it. It’s been great having free time for the last two years.
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