The pharmaceutical corporation and the 'good work' of managing women's bodies

Soc Sci Med. 2011 Apr;72(8):1342-50. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.10.034. Epub 2011 Mar 3.


Pharmaceutical companies are intricately intertwined with every aspect of contemporary medical reality, and they increasingly drive the social process of medicalization in order to establish and dominate markets for their drugs and devices. In addition to funding the majority of clinical research, organizing it to generate an evidence base that favors their innovations, and influencing the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs and devices, companies still spend substantial resources on direct attempts to shape the attitudes, dispositions, and prescribing behavior of physicians. This article sheds new light on our picture of the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and physicians by examining a novel form of physician-directed communication produced by one prominent corporation. An interpretive, thematic analysis of ORGYN - the unique, full-length magazine published by the Organon Corporation between 1990 and 2003 - reveals two overarching messages it communicated to physicians during that period. First, it offered a compelling picture of the "good work" obstetricians and gynecologists do, which involves enabling women of reproductive age to control their fertility through contraception and infertility treatment, and providing symptom relief and preventive benefits to older women by increasing compliance with hormone therapy regimes. Second, it included pharmaceutical technology in every aspect of the doctor's work, portraying pharmaceutical corporations as the physician's "natural partner", and women patients as passive, disempowered objects of medical practice. Through these consistent messages, the print magazine ORGYN represented one important set of mechanisms by which a pharmaceutical corporation helped drive and sustain medicalization. The article ends with a consideration of the implications of ORGYN's messages for companies, doctors, women patients, and the study of medicalization.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Industry*
  • Female
  • Gynecology
  • Humans
  • Marketing / methods*
  • Obstetrics
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Women's Health*