My work focuses on how social inequalities are produced or exploited by commercialized medicine in the United States. My primary area of research examines how clinical trials are conducted and who participates in them as researchers and human subjects. In my book Medical Research for Hire, I show how clinical trials have become a revenue stream for physicians and an important source of medical “care” for uninsured patients.


My latest book—Adverse Events: Race, Inequality, and the Testing of New Pharmaceuticals—focuses on healthy volunteers’ participation in Phase I clinical trials. Healthy volunteers gain no health benefits and expose themselves to risks for the stipends that pharmaceutical companies pay for their time. I analyze their participation in these clinical trials through the lenses of stigma and social inequality.


In addition to my work on the clinical trials industry and on clinical trial participation, I have also conducted research and published on non-human animal researchnew tracking and location technologies in hospitals, the social construction of Munchausen syndrometattooing as a cultural practice, and qualitative methods.

“Speculating on Precarious Income: Finance Cultures and the Risky Strategies of Healthy Volunteers in Clinical Drug Trials.”


JA Fisher, MM Wood, T Monahan

Journal of Cultural Economy

“Gendered Logics of Biomedical Research: Women in U.S. Phase I Clinical Trials.”

MD Cottingham & JA Fisher

Social Problems


“Phase I Trial Compensation: How Much Do Healthy Volunteers Actually Earn from Clinical Trial Enrollment?”

JA Fisher, at al.

Clinical Trials