This review discusses a growing body of scholarship at the intersection of anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) that examines how drugs are rendered efficacious in laboratories, therapeutic settings, and everyday lives. This literature foregrounds insights into how commercial interests and societal concerns shape the kinds of pharmaceutical effects that are actualized and how some efficacies are blocked in response to moral concerns. The work brought together here reveals how regulatory institutions and health policy makers seek to stabilize pharmaceutical actions while, on the front lines of care, pharmacists, health workers, and users tinker with dosages and indications to tailor pharmaceutical actions to specific circumstances. We show that there is no pure (pharmaceutical) object that precedes its socialization. Pharmaceuticals are not “discovered”; they are made and remade in relation to shifting contexts. This review outlines five key areas of ethnographic and STS research that examines such fluid drugs.


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