Knowledge, legitimacy and economic practice in informal markets for medicine: a critical review of research

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Nov;71(9):1593-600. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.040. Epub 2010 Sep 18.


Current debates and market based interventions in international public health seek to bring about explicit improvements in the quality of care offered by informal providers. In this paper we examine how informal providers are framed as problematic and question assumptions about what constitutes appropriate knowledge and expectations of how economic actors in the medical marketplace will behave. We argue that existing portraits of informal providers tend to establish clear cut distinctions between different kinds of practitioner; 'dis-embed' biomedical transactions from the broader relationships within which they take place; freeze or anatomise what are dynamic economic relationships between stakeholders, and obscure or ignore the position of informal providers in a global pharmaceutical supply chain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Health Care Sector / economics*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'* / economics
  • Social Responsibility