Drugs for Life


How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health (2012 Duke University Press)

Kindle version is now out!

Hear my radio interview about Drugs for Life on BBC 4 Thinking Allowed

Every year the average number of prescriptions purchased by Americans increases, as do healthcare expenditures, which are projected to reach one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2020. In Drugs for Life, I consider how our burgeoning consumption of medicine and cost of healthcare not only came to be, but also came to be taken for granted. For several years, I attended pharmaceutical industry conferences; spoke with marketers, researchers, doctors, and patients; and surveyed the industry’s literature regarding strategies to expand markets for prescription drugs. I concluded that underlying the continual growth in medications, disease categories, costs, and insecurity is a relatively new perception of ourselves as inherently ill and in need of chronic treatment. This perception is based on clinical trials that we have largely outsourced to pharmaceutical companies. Those companies in turn see clinical trials as investments and measure the value of those investments by the size of the market and profits that it will create. They only ask questions for which the answer is more medicine. Drugs for Life challenges our understanding of health, risks, facts, and clinical trials, the very concepts used by pharmaceutical companies to grow markets to the point where almost no one can imagine a life without prescription drugs.

Here is introduction to it: Dumit 2012 Drugs for Life – Introduction

Buy Drugs for Life at Amazon

Drugs for Life also featured in Booktivism at the wonderful and scary Selling Sickness conference in February 2013. You can download a reader’s guide to the books here.



Dumit, Joseph. 2012. Drugs for Life: Growing Health through Facts and Pharmaceuticals. Durham: Duke University Press.

»Sitting, Academic Style

Skeleton At Computer 1

STS as Equipment for Literature: Sitzfleisch Material Semiosis (draft for 4S talk for panel, “Get your theories up and running with lively machines” – comments welcome) the title is a variation on rhetorician Kenneth Burke’s brilliant piece, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” describing the uses of inspirational and self-help books, noting that most people read Continue reading…


»Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity


By showing us the human brain at work, PET (positron emission tomography) scans are subtly–and sometimes not so subtly–transforming how we think about our minds. Picturing Personhood follows this remarkable and expensive technology from the laboratory into the world and back. It examines how PET scans are created and how they are being called on Continue reading…


»Teach Affecting Attention, Material Thought


ANT210 Affecting Attention, Material Thought Instructor: Joe Dumit  Time: Fall 2011   The encounter between two disciplines doesn’t take place when one reflects on the other, but when one discipline realizes that it has to resolve, for itself, a problem similar to one confronted by the other. – Gilles Deleuze In this course we will Continue reading…