Reviewed by: Society for Medical Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Health
Secondary Theme: Materiality
The 1990s produced the global pharmaceutical industry, or Big Pharma, along with the concept of blockbuster drugs - drugs that sell in excess of 1 billion dollars (US) annually. The 1990s also witnessed a robust critique of Big Pharma by anthropology, medicine and bioethics (among many others), which examined the culture(s) of pharmaceutical prescribing, the sales and marketing practices of industry reps, the global clinical trials network, and the impact of prescription drugs on personhood, the family and society. This roundtable will bring together a diverse group that has engaged with the critique of Big Pharma at different points along the anthropology of pharmaceuticals continuum. The goal of the roundtable is to critically assess the impact of this collective critique - What did it do to confront and slow the power of Pharma? What forms of resistance did it create? What are some counter movements to Pharmaceuticalization? The roundtable will also also provide an ethnographic examination of the aftermath of the blockbuster era: What are the personal, cultural and medical side effects of Big Pharma's total efficacy and the total effect of drugs? Along with the opioid crisis, where else have pharmaceuticals paradoxically laid waste to human health and wellness? Are we truly post-blockbuster in a world of biologics, biosimilars and truly expensive orphan and ultra-orphan drugs? And finally, the roundtable will ask: What next? Where will Big Pharma and those that choose an ongoing critique of 'the pharmaceutical' venture in the 21st century?