Marvelous medicines and dangerous drugs: the representation of prescription medicine in the UK newsprint media

Public Underst Sci. 2010 Jan;19(1):52-69. doi: 10.1177/0963662508094100.


Using discourse analysis, this study examines the representation of prescription medicines in the UK newsprint media and, specifically, how the meaning and function of medicines are constructed. At the same time, it examines the extent to which the newsprint media represents a resource for health information, and considers how it may encourage or challenge faith in modern medicine and medical authority. As such, it extends analysis around concepts such as the informed patient and examines the representation of patients and doctors and the extent to which patient-doctor identities promoted in the newsprint media reflect a shift away from paternalism to negotiated encounters. Findings show the media constructs a discrete, contradictory, and frequently oversimplified set of characterizations about medicine. Moreover, it discursively constructs realities that justify and sustain medial dominance. Ideological paradigms in discourse assign patients as passive and disempowered while simultaneously privileging "expert" knowledge. This constructs a reality that marginalizes patients' participation in decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Journalism, Medical
  • Mass Media
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prescription Drugs*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Perception*
  • United Kingdom


  • Prescription Drugs