In The Spectacular Generic, Cori Hayden examines how generic drugs have transformed public health politics and everyday experiences of pharmaceutical consumption in Latin America. Focusing on the Mexican pharmacy chain Farmacias Similares and its proprietor, Víctor González Torres, Hayden shows how generics have become potent commodities in a postpatent world. In the early 2000s, González Torres, a.k.a. “Dr. Simi,” capitalized on the creation of new markets for generic medicines, selling cheaper copies of leading-brand drugs across Latin America. But Dr. Simi has not simply competed with the transnationals; his enterprise has also come to compete with the Mexican state, reorganizing the provision of medicine and basic health care for millions of people. Hayden juxtaposes this story with Dr. Simi’s less successful efforts in Argentina, where he confronted a radically different configuration of pharmaceutical politics. Building from these diverging trajectories, Hayden illuminates the politics of generic substitution as a question that goes beyond substituting one drug for another. Generic politics can radically reshape the relations among consumers, states, and pharmaceutical markets, even as they have yet to resolve the problems of cost and access.
December 26, 2022