Keeping modern in medicine: Pharmaceutical promotion and physician education in postwar america

Jeremy A. Greene, Scott H. Podolsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Recent critiques of the role of pharmaceutical promotion in medical practice invoke a nostalgic version of 1950s and 1960s medicine as representing an uncomplicated relationship between an innovative pharmaceutical industry and an idealistic and sovereign medical profession-a relationship that was later corrupted by regulatory or business practice changes in the 1980s or 1990s. However, the escalation of innovation and promotion in the pharmaceutical industry at mid-century had already provoked a broader crisis of overflow in medical education in which physicians came to use both commercial and professional sources in an attempt to "keep modern" by incorporating emerging therapeutics into their practices. This phenomenon was simultaneously a crisis for the medical profession-playing a key role in attempts to inculcate a "rational therapeutics"-and a marketing opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, and produced the structural foundations for contemporary debates regarding the role of pharmaceutical promotion in medical practice. Tracing the issue from the advent of the wonder drugs through today's concerns regarding formal CME, we document how and why the pharmaceutical industry was allowed (and even encouraged) to develop and maintain the central role it now plays within postgraduate medical education and prescribing practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-377
Number of pages47
JournalBulletin of the history of medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • American medical association
  • Kefauver hearings
  • Ontinuing medical education
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Pharmaceutical promotion
  • Postgraduate medical education
  • Prescribing behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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