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The case of the ‘Spurious Drugs Kingpin’: shifting pills in Chennai, India

Sarah Hodges

This paper recounts the tale of a ‘Spurious Drugs Kingpin’ and his scandalous business empire of relabelling and recirculating expired medicines in the south Indian city of Chennai. At the time the story broke, in the first half of 2010, questions of drug safety dominated media headlines and public discussion. However, a closer investigation suggests a more complicated picture. While relabelling expired medicines was certainly a crime, it is far from clear if their relabelling and subsequent redistribution constituted a public health danger. If actually existing unsafe drugs did not fuel this drug safety scandal, what did? I argue this case illuminates two things: (1) the illusory nature of certainties about drug safety and (2) how ambiguity about the safety of expired drugs facilitates policing not of relations within the pharmacological world, but instead of social and economic relations. This episode matters because it illuminates how, within apparent attempts to police the safety of circulation of drugs, drugs themselves are neither subject nor object, but instead the ground upon which market battles are waged.

Hodges, Sarah. 2019. “The Case of the ‘Spurious Drugs Kingpin’: Shifting Pills in Chennai, India” 29 (4): 473–83.

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The case of the ‘Spurious Drugs Kingpin’: shifting pills in Chennai, India