Clinical Trial Participants Fight for Compensation They Were Promised

StayWell Research in Northridge has promised participants up to $1,500 that they have yet to receive

If you're a company and want someone to test your product, the best way to ensure they complete a clinical program is to pay them.

But the NBC I-Team was tipped that participants in some clinical trials have followed the rules, but have yet to see a dime.

A participant research firm in Northridge that promised people up to $1,500 to test out their health and nutritional supplements ended up not following through on those promises, participants told the NBC4 I-Team.

Yuddi Cho thought she might be lactose intolerant.

For Courtney Black, it's a skin ailment.

"I've had eczema my whole life," Black said.

Black and Cho both sought answers to their health issues as paid participants in clinical trials with StayWell Research.

The Northridge-based company tests health and nutritional supplements, and advertises compensation for completion of the trial between $200 and $1,500.

Kiry Peng is CEO of the Business Consumer Alliance, which investigates consumer complaints and helps negotiate settlements.

StayWell hit Peng's radar last June.

"They're not coming through and compensating these consumers after the trials have been completed," he said.

Cho said she's supposed to be paid $540 for the trial in which she took part, and has filed a complaint.

As a StayWell patient for six months, Cho kept a research diary, reporting every two weeks. Her trial ended in December 2013, and she received a check -- but still hasn't seen the money.

"I took it to the bank and it bounced. It bounced actually twice," Cho said.

Amira Rucker, StayWell clinical director, blames the issue on the company's growing pains.

"The intention is always there to pay them," Rucker said.

In 2012, StayWell research tested 100 patients, Rucker said. In 2014, that number's grown to 2,000 patients annually.

This year alone, StayWell Research reports paying $300,000 in patient compensation. But how much is still owed?

"For sure it's less than $300,000," Rucker said. "But in terms of the exact figure, I don't have that."

Black said after months of excuses from StayWell, the Business Consumer Alliance was able to negotiate her payment of $375 from the company, for her five-week trial.

"Its all about being fair," Black said. "If we're doing our part, why aren't they doing their part?"

Nine months after completing her trial, Cho's still surfing StayWell's website for news of its compensation plan -- hoping to get a check that won't bounce.

If you're planning on signing up for a clinical trial, NBC4 recommends doing research on the company to see if others have lodged complaints, finding out the time commitment and planned compensation, and checking with your doctor before taking anything that could adversely affect your health.

StayWell officials say they're addressing infrastructure issues so this doesn't happen again.

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