The role of pharmaceuticals in HIV /AIDS and medicine
The article focuses on the power that pharmaceuticals and their producers have both over the experience of sickness and the body, and within the health care system. Based on an empirical study carried out in the field of HIV/AIDS medicine shortly after the introduction of combination therapies, it is argued that the power of this new treatment, which is both hoped for and feared by people with HIV, only partially translates into a new authority for physicians who increasingly lose power to actors beyond their control. Data on which decisions are based are produced in the laboratory, and treatment decisions are taken through specialist consultations and based on meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and treatment guidelines derived from clinical research. While medical science thus gains authority to define medical practice, pharmaceutical companies increasingly enter the sphere of medical science by crossing and blurring the boundaries between the commercial and scientific domains of medicine. In the light of physicians' eroding authority and autonomy and the increasing power of globally organized pharmaceutical companies, this article argues that pharmaceutical companies are about to take over portions of physicians' monopolistic power.
Christine Kopp is specialized in medical anthropology, rural development, and migration. Having worked in various research projects in the field of HIV/AIDS, she wrote her PhD thesis on «The New Era of AIDS. HIV and Medicine in Times of Transition». Presently, she works as the program manager of the National HIV/AIDS Program at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.
Address: Bundesamt für Gesundheit, Sektion Aids, CH-3003 Bern.