In the early history of psychopharmacology, the prospect of developing technologically sophisticated drugs to alleviate human ills was surrounded with a fervor that could be described as religious. This paper explores the subsequent history of the development of psychopharmacological agents, focusing on the ambivalent position of both the industry and its employees. Based on interviews with retired pharmaceutical employees who were active in the industry in the 1950s and 1960s when the major breakthroughs were made in the development of MAOIs and SSRIs, the paper explores the initial development of educational materials for use in sales campaigns. In addition, based on interviews with current employees in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, the paper describes the complex perspective of contemporary pharmaceutical employees who must live surrounded by the growing public vilification of the industry as rapacious and profit hungry and yet find ways to make their jobs meaningful and dignified. The paper will contribute to the understudied problem of how individuals function in positions that require them to be part of processes that on one description constitute a social evil, but on another, constitute a social good.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ayd Frank J. (1961). Recognizing the Depressed Patient. Grune and Stratton, New York
Brubaker Bill (2000). The Limits of $100 Million: Epidemic’s Complexities Curb Impact of Bristol-Myers’s Initiative. Washington Post, December 29:A01
Bzdek Vincent (2003) Tube Feeding: Health ‘Education’ Programs Are Beamed to the Hospital Bed by the Patient Channel. Some Critics Can’t Swallow the Added Dose of Drug Company Promotion. Washington Post, May 24:F01
Connolly Ceci (2003). Drug Import Bill’s Sponsor Fires Back at Industry Ads. Washington Post, July 15:A04
Feather Leonard (1966) The Blues from Then till Now: Liner Notes for Symposium in Blues. Radio Corporation of America, New York
Fisher, Morris A. (2003) Physicians and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 46(2):254–272
Fishman Jennifer R. (2004). Manufacturing Desire: The Commodification of Female Sexual Dysfunction. Social Studies of Science 34(2):187
Flaherty Mary Pat, Nelson Deborah, Joe Stephens (2000) The Body Hunters: Overwhelming the Watchdogs. Washington Post, December 18:1,4
Gardiner Harris (2003) Debate Resumes on the Safety of Depression’s Wonder Drugs. New York Times, August 7:A1
Gellman, Barton (2000a) An Unequal Calculus of Life and Death; As Millions Perished in Pandemic, Firms Debated Access to Drugs; Players in the Debate Over Drug Availability and Pricing. Washington Post, December 27:A01
Gellman, Barton (2000b) A Turning Point That Left Millions Behind: Drug Discounts Benefit Few While Protecting Pharmaceutical Companies’ Profits. Washington Post, December 28:A01
Greene Jeremy A. (2004) Attention to ‘Details’: Etiquette and the Pharmaceutical Salesman in Postwar America. Social Studies of Science 34(2):271
Healy, David 1996 Frank Ayd: The Discovery of Antidepressants. In The Psychopharmacologists. Interviews by David Healy. Vol. 1, pp. 81–110. London: Altman
Levine, Sharon 2002 Prepared Witness Testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Vol. 2005
Masters, Brook A. (2003) Drug Company Unit May Face Indictment. Washington Post, May 30:E01
Murphy, Sheila 1998 Begin a Patients’ Support Group. Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine, September. Available at: http://www.Pharmrep.com
Pearlstein Steven (2003) The Wrong Prescription for Pricing Drugs. Washington Post, June 25:E01
Rasmussen Nicolas (2004) The Moral Economy of the Drug Company—Medical Scientist Collaboration in Interwar America. Social Studies of Science 34(2):161
Sarasohn Judy (2003) A Good Year for Lobbyists. Washington Post, June 12:A37
Singer, Ira D. 2002 Drug Makers Exit the Comfort Zone; Prescription Drug Costs Are a Favorite Target of Employers These Days. Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine, May. Available at: http://www.Pharmrep.com
Smith Mickey C. (1968). Principles of Pharmaceutical Marketing. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, PA
Time (1970). Help for the Manic-Depressive. Time 95:46
I owe many thanks to Joe Dumit and Nathan Greenslit for their editorial suggestions. I also learned a lot from the responses of the participants in the seminar Vital Matters, II: Biotechnology, held at the University of Bergen in 2005. My heartfelt thanks go to the retired gentlemen from the pharmaceutical industry who gave me so much: not only did they deluge me with information and loan me precious artifacts, but they gave me insight into another world where virtue could be practiced very differently. I am equally grateful to the current employees of the industry who spent time talking to me and showed me how their work projects developed over time. The professionals in the industry who took me under their wings and introduced me to their colleagues, past and present, must remain anonymous, but they have my undying gratitude.
About this article
Cite this article
Martin, E. Pharmaceutical Virtue. Cult Med Psychiatry 30, 157–174 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-006-9014-2
- pharmaceutical marketing
- pharmaceutical salesmen
- pharmaceutical industry