Sociology of pharmaceutical development and regulation: a realist empirical research programme

Abraham, John (2008) Sociology of pharmaceutical development and regulation: a realist empirical research programme. Sociology of Health and Illness, 30 (6). pp. 869-885. ISSN 01419889

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A realist conceptualisation of interests is proposed in opposition to the fashionable view that interests, objectivity and reality are merely social constructs, and that sociological analyses should be confined to discourse, actor-networks and micro-contextual practices. The objective interests of pharmaceutical companies in profit-maximisation, and of patients/public health in the optimisation of drugs’ benefit-risk ratios, can be empirically validated. The relationship between those interests and pharmaceutical regulation is best characterised by ‘neo-liberal corporate bias’ at the macro- and meso-levels. How such bias manifests itself at the micro-social level of science-based pharmaceutical testing and regulatory decision making is examined using a realist sociology of scientific knowledge, which appreciates that assessment of the validity of techno-scientific knowledge claims is essential for their sociological explanation. Commercial interests are shown to have biased science away from the interests of public health, in favour of industry. International comparisons of drug regulation demonstrate that drug injuries are not necessarily an inevitable by-product of pharmaceutical progress because some countries have fewer drug safety problems than others. Similarly, the lowering of techno-scientific standards for drug safety testing is not an inevitable cost of faster development of therapeutically valuable medicines, but a consequence of the internationalisation of neo-liberal corporate bias.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: John Abraham
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:54
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2012 08:23
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