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Author's Night - Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine

Date: September 18, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Speaker(s):

Jeremy A. Greene, M.D., Ph.D.

Sponsored by: The Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health and the Fellows Office

Location: The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029


Generic drugs are now familiar objects in clinics, drugstores, and households around the world. We like to think of these tablets, capsules, patches, and ointments as interchangeable with their brand-name counterparts: why pay more for the same? And yet they are not quite the same. They differ in price, in place of origin, in color, shape, and size, in the dyes, binders, fillers, and coatings used, and in a host of other ways. Claims of generic equivalence, as physician-historian Jeremy Greene reveals in this gripping narrative, are never based on being identical to the original drug in all respects, but in being the same in all ways that matter.

How do we know what parts of a pill really matter? Decisions about which differences are significant and which are trivial in the world of therapeutics are not resolved by simple chemical or biological assays alone. As Greene reveals in this fascinating account, questions of therapeutic similarity and difference are also always questions of pharmacology and physiology, of economics and politics, of morality and belief.

This talk is based on Jeremy Greene’s just published book, Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine, the first book to chronicle the social, political, and cultural history of generic drugs in America, narrating the evolution of the generic drug industry from a set of mid-twentieth-century "schlock houses" and "counterfeiters" into an agile and surprisingly powerful set of multinational corporations in the early twenty-first century.

About the Speaker(s)

Jeremy A. Greene, M.D., Ph.D., is associate professor of medicine and the history of medicine and the Elizabeth Treide and A. McGehee Harvey Chair in the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is the author of Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease and coeditor of Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America, both published by Johns Hopkins.

 

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