living in a world of surplus health
Frequently Asked Questions
he very concept of health has changed in ways that are both
utterly familiar to us and unbelievably alien. In this new health
we are dedicated to measuring our health by understanding our
risks and taking practical steps to reduce them. This just makes sense
to us. At the same time, as I’ve shown in chapters 3 and 4, this ap-
proach to health has the actual consequence of causing us to spend
ever- increasing amounts of attention, energy, and money on health,
vastly and continually increasing our pharmaceutical consumption.
While this new health has strengths as well as weaknesses, it has
been fitted into corporate research agendas and become something
quite different, namely, surplus health, which looks like health but
is valued only in terms of treatment growth because only that trans-
lates into corporate growth. As we have come to accept and live within
this new notion of health, we have come to naturalize and desire this
notion of health growth in ourselves. While there are many other con-
cerns about the pharmaceutical industry, my book has attempted to
isolate this specific aspect of the redefinition of health research.
The case I make on this transformation of research agendas is a
strong one because I have taken it directly from the explicit goals of
pharmaceutical marketing, and it is echoed by many other players in
the pharmaceutical world. There is a growing recognition that mar-
keting has taken over clinical trial design and therefore shapes the
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