We all know that pharmaceutical companies discover, manufacture, and bring to market products that help us and even save our lives. In a new book, a Wagner anthropology professor reveals these guardians of public health also have a dark side.
In The Drug Company Next Door: Pollution, Jobs, and Community Health in Puerto Rico (New York University Press, 2013), Alexa S. Dietrich, assistant professor of anthropology at Wagner College, studies one small town in Puerto Rico where more than a dozen drug factories are located — the highest concentration per capita of such factories in the world. Dietrich shows that the town's relationship with multinational drug companies has brought into the community not only economic benefits from well-paid jobs but also, ironically, high amounts air and water pollution that are released by the factories and are toxic to humans and to the environment.
Dietrich explores how this dynamic plays out. Without demonizing the companies, she portrays their interaction with the local community and the strategies that have been used to address the pollution issue.
The Drug Company Next Door puts a human face on a growing set of problems for communities around the world. Accessible and engaging, the book encourages readers to think critically about the role of corporations in everyday life, health, and culture.
UPDATE: Alexa Dietrich won the 2015 Julian Steward award from the Anthropology and Environment Society, which named The Drug Company Next Door "the best book published in environmental anthropology" of the past two years.