West Coasters with time to spare could help trial new medicines and earn money.

The Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust, a medical research unit that runs clinical trials, is looking for healthy men and women to take part.

Medical director Chris Wynne said they had never thought of Coasters before, given the Coast's distance from Christchurch, but the downturn in jobs in the area had prompted a rethink.

He said some of the trials might suit Coasters because they involved staying in Christchurch, followed by outpatient visits.


The trust was still looking for 25 males aged 25-40 for its latest trial, which involved 75 men in Christchurch and 75 in Auckland.

Participants would be in Christchurch for two weeks, then return for six half-hour visits over two months. They would be paid $7000.

The trial involved taking a single dose of a medicine that that been on the market for a number of years, and was due to come off patent. The generic version of the medicine was being tested to show it produced similar levels in the blood to the original medicine.

"Here's a study that might suit people who come from a distance, because they're going to get clean sheets, three meals a day, nice nurses for two weeks, then only have to make six visits over a period of a couple of months," Dr Wynne said.

The trust would pay a mileage allowance for travel.

Trial participants could contribute to medical breakthroughs, Dr Wynne said.

The trust's recent work on hepatitis C had helped an American company develop drugs to cure the disease.

"On the strength of the first 40 patients that we treated in New Zealand, that little biotech company got bought for $11 billion and this disease is now essentially cured."


All studies have been approved by an Ethics Committee and MedSafe-reviewed protocol. The trust took safety "extremely seriously".

It screened applicants to ensure they were healthy and had no drug or alcohol issues. They could only take part in two studies a year.

"No medicine is absolutely safe, but we take special care," Dr Wynne said. "My rule of thumb is, no study will be done here unless it's safe enough for my kids."

Adverse reactions such as headaches - possibly caused by a caffeine restriction -- weren't uncommon, but the trust had never had any life-threatening situations, he said.

The two worst events in its 20-year history had been a 20-year-old woman who suffered a heart problem and a man who had an epileptic seizure.

Both happened before any medicines were given.

The woman's heart disease was picked up during pre-testing, Dr Wynne said.

"She was extraordinarily lucky, in that she was participating in a study where we were doing ECGs and taking heart enzymes as a routine. She had a viral condition affecting her heart, we detected that, and she was [put] in coronary care."

The amount participants earned from each trial aimed to compensate them fairly, but not entice them. The payments reflected the restrictions on participants, including no alcohol while staying in the unit, taking no other medication, no smoking or using recreational drugs, and having to use contraception during a trial.

The $7000 payment for the current trial was at the top end of compensation.

A future study on a flu vaccine for 18-29-year-old participants, required no residential stays, but a number of outpatient visits. It paid $2000.

• Anyone interested in taking part in trials could contact: CCST.co.nz; recruiter@CCST.co.nz or call 03 372 9477.

- Westport News