The Social Identification and Integration of Pharmaceutical Products

In ‘Depression and Consumption: Psychopharmaceuticals, Branding, and New Identity Practices,’ Nathan Greenslit suggests that the packaging, marketing and targeting of pharmaceutical products not only allows them to assume changing social lives, but allows them to represent various cultural messages that contribute to a key dimension of the social histories of mental illnesses. The product itself apparently has an identity that becomes crystallized in the context of social explanations. Following Baudrillard, Greenslit wonders if personalization with such a product identity is achieved through an emphasis on inessential aspects of a commodity, or aspects distinct from functional ones.

There lies a boundary between science and politics that arises from the relationship between medicine and culture. Marketing complicates what is considered real or bad science. Using the example of Sarafem, Greenslit explores how psychiatry medicalizes premenstrual experiences, and complicates concerns about how the pharmaceutical industry consequently capitalizes on premenstrual experiences. It appears as though drugs themselves change the social reality of mental illness, for the case of PMDD shows how the pharmaceutical industry medicalizes the condition as bodily rather than hormonal in order to eventually create new ideas about premenstrual symptoms.

Greenslit consequently emphasizes the ways in which the coproduction of illness categories with pharmaceutical treatments creates ways for people to speak about themselves as medical objects, and as experiencing themselves as subjects of medical discourse. Prescription drugs are produced not only as chemicals, but also as texts with social, cultural, and personal influences and interpretations.

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