Pharmacogenetics as Alien Science

Hedgecoe, Adam (2006) Pharmacogenetics as Alien Science. Social Studies of Science, 36 (5). pp. 723-752. ISSN 1460-3659

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This paper takes Harry Collins’ concept of the ’core set’ and combines it with emerging work in the sociology of sociotechnical expectations to explore the continued citation in review papers of a research result that is widely rejected by experts. The result in question, a putative pharmacogenetic link between carrying the APOE4 allele and reduced response to the anti-Alzheimer’s disease (AD) drug Tacrine, was first reported in 1995. Since then it has been widely cited, helping to create expectations about pharmacogenetics or ’personalized medicine’. To the majority of clinicians and researchers specialized in AD (the core set) this result is of little value – both scientifically defunct and ethically risky – although some supporters continue to suggest that the value of the result has been masked by commercial interests. This paper shows how the value of this result as an example of pharmacogenetics leads commentators outside the core set to ignore its controversial qualities and use it as a resource for expectation-building, but in the process producing a representation of AD pharmacogenetics that resembles an ’alien science’ (an inaccurate picture an outsider conveys of a scientific topic based on the literature, rather than interviews with the scientists involved).

Item Type: Article
Keywords: APOE, core set, expectations, genomics, pharmacogenetics, policy-makers
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Depositing User: Chris Keene
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2008
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 16:51
Google Scholar:9 Citations
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