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Soc Stud Sci. 2004 Apr;34(2):187-218.

Manufacturing desire: the commodification of female sexual dysfunction.

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  • 1Department of Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Clevelan, OH 44106-4976, USA.


The process of bringing new drugs to market interweaves commercialism, science, clinical medicine, and governmental regulation. Through their authority and public persona as medical experts, academic clinical trial researchers studying these pharmaceuticals are integral to this process, serving as mediators between producers (the pharmaceutical companies) and consumers (clinicians and patients) of new drugs through a complex set of exchange networks. Using examples from my ethnographic research on the search for pharmaceuticals to treat what has become known as female sexual dysfunction, this paper explores the links academic researchers make with drug manufacturers and consumer markets. Academic researchers have become an integral aspect of drug development, not only by conducting clinical trial research, but also by participating in a number of other activities that assist pharmaceutical companies in identifying and creating new markets. In this paper, i examine how researchers attend professional meetings where they present clinical trial data, lecture at continuing medical education conferences, and offer themselves as ' experts' to raise awareness about disorders and their treatments. Modifying a sociology of technology approach, this paper focuses on the actors in the social network who mediate the junctions between technological producers and consumers. This extends work in this area through theorizing the linkages between exchange networks, commodification techniques, and technoscientific developments.

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