Oct. 11, 2018

Shopping for Health: Medicine and Markets in America


Why do we refer to patients as "consumers" in the United States?

Is today’s opioid crisis the result of medical consumerism run amok—of pills hawked like soap to gullible shoppers? Is picking a doctor really like choosing a new car? Join us to discuss when and why patients started to be called "consumers," and to examine the positive and negative aspects of 20th c. medical "consumerism." We will explore a century of efforts to deliver pharmaceutical relief through properly calibrated markets, and evaluate the risks (and often-misunderstood benefits) of governing addictive drugs as consumer goods.

About the speakers

David Herzberg is Associate Professor of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). His current research explores the history of addictive pharmaceuticals in the 20th century’s consumer culture. Among other places his work has appeared inAmerican Quarterly, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, theAmerican Journal of Public Health, and in a book on the cultural history of psychiatric medicines titled Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac.

Nancy Tomes is Distinguished Professor of History at Stony Brook University. Her research has varied over the course of her career, but has maintained a focus on the intersection between expert knowledge and popular understandings of the body and disease. She has authored four books, including most recently the Bancroft Award winning Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers.

The event is co-sponsored by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

Questions? Email

Event registration is non-refundable, but is transferable.

The Mütter Museum will not be open during this event.


The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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