John Libbey Eurotext

Sciences sociales et santé


Conflicts of interest, industrial science, and expertise in American debates around the uses of sex hormones Volume 38, issue 3, Septembre 2020

* Historien, Inserm, EHESS, Cermes3, 7 rue Guy Môquet, 94801 Villejuif cedex, France

The medical uses of female sex hormones and their synthetic analogs have, in the United States, been the focus of regular public debates around their iatrogenic effects and the influence of pharmaceutical firms on prescription patterns and regulatory interventions. This paper compares the DES crisis in the early 1970s and the hormonal replacement therapy crisis in the mid-2000s in order to investigate the ways in which this influence has been apprehended. Using the judicial archives originating in the court trials these controversies have elicited, the analysis targets, on the one hand, the action of firms, their leading role in the organization of clinical research, and the latter's coupling with marketing, and, on the other hand, the emergence during the 2000s crisis of the notion of conflict of interest as the main interpretive framework. This paper links this emergence with transformations in the organization of scientific marketing by the industry, in the relationship of female health movements to expertise, and in the legal status granted to conflict of interest. The conclusion discusses conflict of interest as an analytical category for the social sciences.