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Magic Bullets and Blockbuster Brands: Drugs, Disease, and Chemistry in the Modern World

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1911
Section 001
Instructor Brendan Matz
Days R
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SCI



What role did pharmaceutical drugs play in the shaping of the world that we currently inhabit? When and where did the key developments in drug therapy take place and how did these therapies relate to evolving understandings and definitions of disease? In what ways has the relationship between the the drug industry, the state, and the university changed over time? To what extent were and are drugs and the diseases they are designed to treat embedded in the broader society and culture? What is the relationship between Western drug therapies and the global South? This course examines the history of pharmaceutical drugs and related medical technology in global perspective from the late nineteenth century to the present. Important biomedical advances in drug therapy—such as vaccines, vitamins, antibiotics, steroids, and antiretrovirals—will be considered in relation to changes in the medical profession, the rise of the pharmaceutical industry, and an ongoing tension between drug marketing and state regulation. We will also consider the ways in which Western medicine relates to other medical and healing traditions. Public reaction to and expectations about scientific discovery, intellectual property and global health, and the relationship between illicit and licit drugs will also serve as unifying themes for the course. Course texts will include Jeremy Greene's Prescribing by Numbers and Robert Bud's Penicillin: Triumph and Tragedy.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)