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Students sign up for drug tests to make money

As the summer vacation season begins, college students in South Korea are seeking part-time jobs to help pay for the next semester’s tuition. 

An increasingly popular choice is taking part in bioequivalent drug trials.

Bioequivalent products are generic version of original patented drugs. Before they can be sold, drug firms have to test their products on human subjects to identify side effects.

Some college students participate in the two-session experiments with each session requiring a three-day stay at a hospital. Students receive about 450,000 won for the six-day program, a relatively large sum of money considering the time involved.

According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Wednesday, 201 bioequivalence tests were conducted in 2012. As each session requires about 50 participants, thousands of college students are thought to have joined the program each year.

A couple of years ago, a handful of agencies sprouted up to handle the tests on behalf of the drug makers. Each agency reportedly has more than 200 candidates on its “waiting list” as of Wednesday. 

In return for generous compensation, students have to be aware of the possible side effects, including allergic responses and severe dizziness. 

“The (medical) benefits of the equivalence tests given to the subjects are unclear or even do not exist, however, the dangers contained in the experiments are very apparent,” said a researcher at the hospital of Seoul National University.

Jin Eun-soo, Intern reporter
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Korea Herald daum