Trust or distrust in medicines
Transactions involving medicines are typically asymmetric: although neither buyer nor seller has complete information about a product’s quality and efficacy – particularly in settings like Ghana with weak regulation – the uncertainty and risks are most pressing for the buyer. Drawing on in-depth interviews (N=220) and observations of medicine transactions, plus interviews with regulators (N=20), we explore how people in Ghana negotiate this uncertainty. In contrast with prevailing literature that emphasises the role of trust in managing healthcare, our data suggest that distrust may be an equally important departure point. Starting from a position of underlying distrust, most of our interviewees took precautions, scrutinising the medicine, and the outlet and retailer, before making a purchase. Where buyers acted on trust (taking no precautions), this was underpinned either by necessity or by deeply embedded social relationships between seller and buyer that render precaution-taking both unnecessary and counter-productive. However, trust embedded in social relationships cannot eliminate risk, because of the dispersed and under-regulated nature of wider supply chains.
Date: 26 November 2018, 12:45 (Monday, 8th week, Michaelmas 2018)
Venue: Manor Road Building, Manor Road OX1 3UQ
Venue Details: Lecture Theatre
Speaker: Heather Hamill (University of Oxford)
Organising department: Department of Sociology
Organisers: Colin Mills (University of Oxford), Man Yee Kan (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address:
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Public
Editor: Jane Greig