Racialization of drugs mobilizes prior conceptions of identity

Oct 23, 2008

If we want to fully understand the allure of pharmaceuticals, we need to look beyond both medical efficacy and profit motives. A new study in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics shows that when we use claims about drugs in arguments about racial identity, the meaning of both the pharmaceuticals and of race remain unsettled.

Anne Pollock, Ph.D. of the Georgia Institute of Technology tracks the intersection of race and a particular generic drug, thiazide. Not focusing on marketing and efficacy but rather drawing on social theory, the article describes and analyzes an encounter at an African American Studies Colloquium that involved economist Roland Fryer and literary theorist Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who use thiazide as a nexus through which to talk about ideologies of race. The identification between race and thiazide are unstable, diverse, and ambiguous, even among two African American Harvard professors.

Pollock then contextualizes that encounter in larger debates around race and thiazide to further show the complicated nature of pharmaceutical meaning making. Although pharmaceuticals can seem to rely on scientific data and marketing for their power, they are, in fact, also subject to claims on many more levels.

On the one hand, thiazide has been called upon in a recent resurgence of an argument relating selection pressures in Atlantic slavery to cardiovascular disease in African Americans. This claim suggests the drug could be key to solving racial morbidity and mortality disparities.

At the same time, thiazide has been touted by the National Institutes of Health as the best antihypertensive medicine for everyone, especially Blacks.

The extent to which a drug is taken – or talked about – is related to commodity properties that exceed the physiological and economic. Links between race and pharmaceuticals can be both unstable and generative even when the drug in question is old and generic.

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Amgen misses 1Q views as higher costs cut profit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Amgen misses 1Q views as higher costs cut profit

Apr 22, 2014

Despite higher sales, biotech drugmaker Amgen's first-quarter profit fell 25 percent as production and research costs rose sharply, while the year-ago quarter enjoyed a tax benefit. The company badly missed ...

Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

Apr 22, 2014

Valeant Pharmaceuticals and activist investor Bill Ackman have unveiled details of their offer to buy Botox maker Allergan, proposing a cash-and-stock deal that could be worth about $45.6 billion.

User comments : 0

More news stories