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Social Science & Medicine
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/socscimed
The pharmaceutical corporation and the ‘good work’ of managing women’s bodies Tasleem Juana Padamsee*
Department of Sociology, Ohio State University, 238 Townshend Hall, 1885 Neil Avenue Mall, Columbus, OH 43210, United States
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history: Available online 3 March 2011 Keywords: Women Gender Medicalization Pharmaceutical corporations Health care Menopause Infertility Reproduction
a b s t r a c t
Pharmaceutical companies are intricately intertwined with every aspect of contemporary medical reality, and they increasingly drive the social process of medicalization in order to establish and dominate markets for their drugs and devices. In addition to funding the majority of clinical research, organizing it to generate an evidence base that favors their innovations, and in uencing the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs and devices, companies still spend substantial resources on direct attempts to shape the attitudes, dispositions, and prescribing behavior of physicians. This article sheds new light on our picture of the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and physicians by examining a novel form of physician-directed communication produced by one prominent corporation. An interpretive, thematic analysis of ORGYN e the unique, full-length magazine published by the Organon Corporation between 1990 and 2003 e reveals two overarching messages it communicated to physicians during that period. First, it offered a compelling picture of the “good work” obstetricians and gynecologists do, which involves enabling women of reproductive age to control their fertility through contraception and infertility treatment, and providing symptom relief and preventive bene ts to older women by increasing compliance with hormone therapy regimes. Second, it included pharmaceutical technology in every aspect of the doctor’s work, portraying pharmaceutical corporations as the physician’s “natural partner”, and women patients as passive, disempowered objects of medical practice. Through these consistent messages, the print magazine ORGYN represented one important set of mechanisms by which a pharmaceutical corporation helped drive and sustain medicalization. The article ends with a consideration of the implications of ORGYN’s messages for companies, doctors, women patients, and the study of medicalization. Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction Pharmaceutical companies are intricately intertwined with every aspect of contemporary medical reality. From de ning diseases and funding clinical research to training physicians and guiding their prescribing habits, the pharmaceutical industry has thoroughly embedded itself in the science, regulation, and practice of modern medicine. And while medicalization e the de nition and treatment of life problems, processes, or deviance in medical terms (Zola, 1972) e was originally driven by health care professions and organizations, it is now increasingly driven by pro t-oriented corporations seeking to establish and dominate markets for their drugs and devices (Conrad, 2005). Existing research documents several routes by which pharmaceutical companies drive the ongoing process of medicalization. Due in large part to recent regulatory changes that allow increased latitude for advertising pharmaceutical products (Moynihan & Cassels, 2005; Sismondo, * Tel.: þ1 614 247 1974; fax: þ1 614 292 6687. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. 0277-9536/$ e see front matter Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.10.034
2008; Tiefer, 2000), many companies now target print and television ads directly to consumers, ‘educating’ potential patients about medical conditions and available treatments, and effectively changing their self-perceptions to better t the drugs...