Users sceptical about generic drugs: an anthropological approach

Abstract : BACKGROUND: Since the enactment of the 2002 legislative measures favoring the prescription of generic drugs, various quantitative studies have shown that approval by prescribers and users has risen in France. Nevertheless, scepticism remains as well as distrust towards these drugs focusing on their effectiveness compared with brand-name drugs, on potential dangers, and on the interruption they cause in prescription and consumption habits. Using a comprehensive approach, this article analyzes the social and cultural logic behind the negative image of generic drugs. METHODS: The materials issued from an ethnographic study on the prescription of drugs for high blood pressure. Sixty-eight interviews were undertaken between April 2002 and October 2004 with people (39 women and 29 men, between the age of 40 and 95, 52 over the age of 60) treated for over a year for high blood pressure in rural areas in the Southeast of France. Thirteen people provided unsolicited opinions about generic drugs. RESULTS: Analysis of the information collected shows that users have various representations of generic drugs, including the idea of counterfeited and foreign drugs. These representations interfere with the adjustment process and the development of consumer loyalty. They are part of a set of social representations about drugs which form and express the user's reality. In these representations, the drug is an ambivalent object, carrier of both biological effectiveness and toxicity; it is also the metonymical extension of the prescriber, bestowing upon the prescription a symbolic value. CONCLUSION: By placing the generic drug in its network of symbolic and social meaning, this study highlights the coherence of the scepticism towards generic drugs by consumers (and prescribers) with a system of common opinion in which drugs are everyday things, personalized and compatible with users, symbolic exchange carriers in the physician-patient relationship, and in which confidence in the drug is also that given to the health care system in general.
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Aline Sarradon-Eck, M.-A Blanc, M. Faure, A. Blanc. Users sceptical about generic drugs: an anthropological approach. Epidemiology and Public Health / Revue d'Epidémiologie et de Santé Publique, Elsevier Masson, 2007, 55 (3), pp.179-185. ⟨10.1016/j.respe.2007.01.026⟩. ⟨inserm-02272176⟩

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