Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Pharmaceuticals and Society: Power, Promises & Prospects

Held at the University of Warwick, Friday 16th December 2011

Sponsored by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness and organised by Dr. Catherine Coveney (University of Warwick), Prof. Jonathan Gabe (Royal Holloway, University of London), Prof. Simon Williams (University of Warwick) and Prof. Paul Martin (University of Nottingham)



Since the 1980s there has been a massive growth of pharmaceutical products and sales internationally. These developments have been caused by the expansion of drug markets outside traditional areas, including new medical indications and conditions, new territories in developing countries and new applications in healthy individuals. Additionally, there have been moves by pharmaceutical companies to increasingly bypass the dominance of the medical profession by creating more direct relationships with patient/ consumer groups. The wider promotion of ‘lifestyle’ drugs that can be used not only in the treatment of clinical disorders, but also to improve or enhance healthy states, indicates a further colonisation of the life world, everyday life and health futures by pharmaceutical solutions. Taken together, these changes can be thought of as an important shift in both the types of markets and applications targeted by the pharmaceutical industry and a transformation in the socio-technical relationships between key actors, with industry increasingly dominating regulatory agencies, by-passing medical control and reconstructing the role of patients/ consumers. In addition there is the possibility of a new era of `personalised’ or `tailor made’ medicines and the prospects of cognitive enhancement and regenerative medicine.

This one-day symposium was organised to take stock of these recent trends and consider the empirical and theoretical questions they raise for those working at the interface of medical sociology and STS.



Expanding medicine use/ Excessive medicine use? Joan Busfield, University of Essex

More politics of personalised medicine Adam Hedgecoe, Cardiff University

Trust, hope and confidence in the pharmaceutical industry and its products: different formats of expectations and their consequences Patrick Brown, University of Amsterdam

The drugs don’t sell: DIY Heart Health and the OTC statin experience Kate Weiner, University of Manchester and Catherine Will, University of Sussex

Ecological Futures of Pharmaceuticals: the case of antimicrobials Sujatha Raman, University of Nottingham

Cognitive Enhancement, Pharmaceuticalisation and the Making of Neurofutures Paul Martin, University of Nottingham and Simon Williams, University of Warwick

Pharmaceutical Fallacy: The Mis-Direction of Regulation, Innovation, and Public Health John Abraham and Courtney Davis, University of Sussex