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Jeremy Greene, "Imitation and Innovation: A History of 'Me-Too' Medicine"

When Nov 12, 2014
from 02:10 PM to 04:00 PM
Where SS&H 1246
Contact Name
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Please join the Science and Technology Studies (STS) Department and the Center for Science and Innovation Studies (CSIS) for a talk by Jeremy Greene (History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University).

Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

Abstract: When, in 2011 the new agent pitivastatin was launched as the eighth "statin" drug on the American market, it was derided by many in the medical press as just another "me-too" drug.  Why did the world need another, more expensive statin, critics asked, when so many other similar drugs were already generically available?  This complaint is familiar: by the early 21st century the me-too drug had become a stock character in critiques of the increasingly trivial innovation of the pharmaceutical sector.  This paper will narrate the origins and development of the me-too drug from the early 1960s to the early 21st century as an inverted history of biomedical innovation.  In a biomedical marketplace that values innovation, the me-too drug represented a form of minor fraud: a new product which claimed to be a significantly different but in practice was functionally indistinguishable from its competitors.  In the American context, public and professional critique of me-too drugs first became visible in a series of Congressional inquiries into the pharmaceutical industry under the Democratic Senators Estes Kefauver and Gaylord Nelson in the 1960s and 1970s.  But the me-too drug also had its defenders, from industry, the medical profession, and some consumer groups as well.  Using manuscripts from institutional and personal archives, government documents, and readings from professional, policy, popular, and trade literatures, Professor Jeremy A. Greene of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine traces the history of the me-too drug as a litmus test for distinguishing significant from trivial innovation in the biomedical field.

Jeremy A. Greene, M.D., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine and holds the Elizabeth A. Treide and A. McGehee Harvey Chair in the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; his most recent book, Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicines, has just been released by Johns Hopkins University Press.  Greene's first book, Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease, was awarded the Rachel Carson Prize by the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the Edward Kremers Prize by the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy.  He received an MD and a PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University in 2005, finished a residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham & Women's Hospital in 2008, is board certified in Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, and continues to practice primary care medicine in a community health center in East Baltimore.

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