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Med Anthropol Q. 2004 Sep;18(3):325-56.

Thick prescriptions: toward an interpretation of pharmaceutical sales practices.

Author information

1
Department of Anthropology Princeton University, USA.

Abstract

Anthropologists of medicine and science are increasingly studying all aspects of pharmaceutical industry practices--from research and development to the marketing of prescription drugs. This article ethnographically explores one particular stage in the life cycle of pharmaceuticals: sales and marketing. Drawing on a range of sources-investigative journalism, medical ethics, and autoethnography--the author examines the day-to-day activities of pharmaceutical salespersons, or drug reps, during the 1990s. He describes in detail the pharmaceutical gift cycle, a three-way exchange network between doctors, salespersons, and patients and how this process of exchange is currently in a state of involution. This gift economy exists to generate prescriptions (scripts) and can mask and/or perpetuate risks and side effects for patients. With implications of pharmaceutical industry practices impacting everything from the personal-psychological to the global political economy, medical anthropologists can play a lead role in the emerging scholarly discourse concerned with critical pharmaceutical studies.

PMID:
15484967
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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