Jeremy A. GreeneGeneric: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014

by Mikey McGovern on November 26, 2014

Jeremy A. Greene

View on Amazon

Is there any such thing as a generic drug? Jeremy A, Greene‘s new book Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) treats its subject matter with a learned skepticism that lets the reader see through the eyes of the historical actors who helped define the modern drug industry. By inverting preconceived notions about what we take to be mundane, mass-produced chemical identities, the book offers a broad yet pointed glance at an industry and its attendant regulatory structures that developed alongside modern consumer culture. Claims about the equivalence and lower price of generic medicines, uncoupled from the patents held by major firms, were always hotly contested, and Jeremy’s book shows how debates about branding–or lack thereof–were at the heart of the rationalization of medical practice.

Generic opens with evocative stories about the legal and scientific crises and personal tragedies wrought by tense relations between medical science and industry. We then learn about early debates over international standardization of chemical names and the emergence of firms that marketed generics as a specific kind of product that were a part of the very same consumer-driven value system their proponents wanted to replace. These anonymous drugs prompted research that could establish sufficient similarity between them, while at the same time provoking disputes of authority between physicians and pharmacists that produced a new regulatory regime and standards which were embodied and shaped by emerging large, bureaucratic health care providers. In the end, the story of generics as champions of access and affordability in an age of elusive therapeutics and ‘me-too’ drugs designed to cash in on innovation is complicated by the global changes in production and trade they have wrought. Are ‘global’ drugs perceived as ‘universal’? Jeremy’s book will promote discussion and thought about the medical mundanities we so often take for granted. Generic takes the philosophically-inflected themes of the history of science into a realm of pressing urgency, and reveals fascinating parallels that actually make it more enjoyable for a broad audience.

This interview is the first half of a pair of new books on the pharmaceutical industry; be on the lookout for my next interview with Joseph M. Gabriel about his new book: Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

{ 0 comments }

Alex NadingMosquito Trails: Ecology, Health and the Politics of Entanglement

December 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Latin American Studies] Dengue fever is on the rise globally. Since it is transmitted by mosquitoes which reside and reproduce in human environments, eradication efforts involve households and the people who keep them clean as well as moral and persuasive campaigns of surveillance and invigilation. In his new book Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health [...]

Read the full article →

Pamela KlassenSpirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

November 27, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Liberal Protestants are often dismissed as reflecting nothing more than a therapeutic culture or viewed as a measuring rod for the decline of Christian orthodoxy. Rarely have they been the subjects of anthropological inquiry. Pamela Klassen, Professor of Religion at the University of Toronto, wants to change that. Her recent [...]

Read the full article →

Janet K. ShimHeart-Sick: The Politics of Risk, Inequality, and Heart Disease

November 27, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] Janet K. Shim’s new book juxtaposes the accounts of epidemiologists and lay people to consider the roles of race, class, and gender (among other things) in health and illness. Heart-Sick: The Politics of Risk, Inequality, and Heart Disease (New York University Press, 2014) integrates several kinds of sources into a [...]

Read the full article →

David WrightDowns: The History of a Disability

September 30, 2014

David Wright‘s 2011 book Downs: The History of a Disability (Oxford University Press, 2011), offers readers a history that stretches far beyond the strictly defined genetic disorder that is its namesake. Wright shows us how the condition that came to be known as Down’s syndrome has as much to do with the social history of what [...]

Read the full article →

Beth LinkerWar’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America

September 23, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Military History] Beth Linker is the author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (University of Chicago Press, 2011).  As she reveals, the story of individual rehabilitation from war-related injury was intertwined with other political concerns at multiple levels.  These century-old accounts matter greatly, as the First World War was that point where [...]

Read the full article →

Michael OsborneThe Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France

September 11, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology and Society] In The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Michael Osborne offers a new way to think about and practice the history of colonial medicine. Eschewing pan-European or Anglo-centric models of the history of colonial medicine, Osborne’s book focuses on the centrality, transformations, and ultimate demise of naval [...]

Read the full article →

Amit PrasadImperial Technoscience: Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India

July 9, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Technology] In his new book, Imperial Technoscience: Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India (MIT Press, 2014), Amit Prasad, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Missouri, examines what he calls the “entangled histories of MRI” by studying the development of the technology in the United States, Britain and India. [...]

Read the full article →

Paula A. MichaelsLamaze: An International History

May 16, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] The twentieth-century West witnessed a revolution in childbirth. Before that time, most women gave birth at home and were attended by family members and midwives. The process was usually terribly painful for the mother. Beginning in the nineteenth century, however, doctors started to “medicalize” childbirth. Physicians began to think of ways to ease [...]

Read the full article →

Abena Dove Osseo-AsareBitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa

April 10, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] Abena Dove Osseo-Asare’s wonderful new book is a thoughtful, provocative, and balanced account of the intersecting histories and practices of drug research in modern Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar. Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2014) tells the stories of six plants, all [...]

Read the full article →