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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals

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Abstract:

This paper is an historical and interpretive examination of the United States pharmaceutical industry and its mission to control public discourse and consciousness concerning health and disease via the accelerated commodification of medicine. The paper uses critical theoretical approaches to analyze the processes of mass communication and commodification, and to explain how the US based pharmaceutical industry has redefined the role it plays in the very conceptualization of disease and how these rationalized practices undermine the conventional doctor-patient dynamic. The recent commodification and popularity of psychoactive drugs is provided as an example of this process. Over the past twenty years the pharmaceutical industry has established itself as a $400 billion per-year business. It has done so largely through the creation of demand for its products. Similar to the American media conglomerate in perpetual search of the transnational "Blockbuster" cinematic or tele-visual sensation, Big Pharma's ability to exert control over research and development, marketing, and, increasingly, the definitions of dis-ease, is central to the industry's growth as a capitalist enterprise. Not coincidentally the industry has, by way of sophisticated means of mediated representation, made momentous gains in interceding in the doctor-patient relationship. It further acts to define popular meanings of illness while proffering commodified biotechnological remedies. By manipulating specific conceptualizations of popular discourse on health the industry may create and predict the demand for its products. This discussion also provides readers with specific examples of how the for-profit media and advertising industries function and the specific interests they serve.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

drug (108), advertis (55), 2002 (52), market (39), pharmaceut (38), compani (28), new (27), journal (24), industri (24), street (20), ad (19), p (19), develop (19), patient (18), wall (18), medic (17), social (17), may (16), product (16), profit (15), one (15),

Author's Keywords:

pharmaceuticals, advertising, prescription drug advertising, health communication, health care, commodification, branding, medicine, medical history,
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MLA Citation:

Tracy, James. "Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p111631_index.html>

APA Citation:

Tracy, J. F. , 2003-05-27 "Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p111631_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This paper is an historical and interpretive examination of the United States pharmaceutical industry and its mission to control public discourse and consciousness concerning health and disease via the accelerated commodification of medicine. The paper uses critical theoretical approaches to analyze the processes of mass communication and commodification, and to explain how the US based pharmaceutical industry has redefined the role it plays in the very conceptualization of disease and how these rationalized practices undermine the conventional doctor-patient dynamic. The recent commodification and popularity of psychoactive drugs is provided as an example of this process. Over the past twenty years the pharmaceutical industry has established itself as a $400 billion per-year business. It has done so largely through the creation of demand for its products. Similar to the American media conglomerate in perpetual search of the transnational "Blockbuster" cinematic or tele-visual sensation, Big Pharma's ability to exert control over research and development, marketing, and, increasingly, the definitions of dis-ease, is central to the industry's growth as a capitalist enterprise. Not coincidentally the industry has, by way of sophisticated means of mediated representation, made momentous gains in interceding in the doctor-patient relationship. It further acts to define popular meanings of illness while proffering commodified biotechnological remedies. By manipulating specific conceptualizations of popular discourse on health the industry may create and predict the demand for its products. This discussion also provides readers with specific examples of how the for-profit media and advertising industries function and the specific interests they serve.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 25
Word count: 7090
Text sample:
Introduction Since 1997 the US pharmaceutical industry has been allowed to appeal to potential customers via commercial advertising in a variety of media as part of a larger effort to promote and market prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies contend that drug advertising educates the public on potential remedies while consumer groups and some physicians interpret the onslaught of messages as being problematical for a variety of ethical and professional reasons. Beneath the controversy lies a more complex set of relations
University Press. Spencer Herbert. 1969. Principles of Sociology edited by Stanislav Andreski. Hamden CT: Archon Books. Starr Paul. 1982. The Social Transformation of American Medicine. New York: Basic Books. Stole Inger. 2001. Advertising in Culture Works: The Political Economy of Culture edited by Richard Maxwell. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press 83-106. Vranica Suzanne. 2002. Patient channel to blast ads at bedridden. Wall Street Journal B1. Winslow Ron and Peter Landers. 2002. Obesity: A world-wide woe. Wall Street


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