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J Biosoc Sci. 2006 Jan;38(1):69-82. Epub 2005 Nov 3.

Urban health and pharmaceutical consumption in Delhi, India.

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Johns Hopkins University, USA.


This paper interrogates the routine and unproblematic use of terms such as 'self-medication' in biomedical and anthropological discourse. A typical depiction of the social factors that explain the practice of 'self-medication' in India is to put together the supply side factors (such as protection offered by the government for the production of generic drugs, especially in the small scale sector, and expansion of the number of drug store outlets), with the increasing demand for allopathic drugs. The paper provides an ethnographic account of the intricate connections between households and biomedical practitioners in urban neighbourhoods in Delhi. It breaks away from the conventional opposition drawn between the practices of physicians and the beliefs of their patients, and suggests that what constitutes the medical environments of these neighbourhoods is the product of medical practices, household economies and concepts of disease. Thus pharmaceutical use is determined as much by practices of dispensation and by how practitioners understand what constitutes therapy as by household understanding of the normal and the pathological. This paper uses both quantitative data and narrative interviews to provide an in-depth understanding of the circulation of pharmaceuticals within the life worlds of the urban poor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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