Combining Drugs. Polytherapy and the Association of Medicinal Substances in Asia




combining-drugsThe paradigm shift that saw pharmaceutical production and biomedicine enter their molecular era in the middle of the twentieth century might be challenged today. On the front line stands the crisis of innovation, characterized by increasing attrition rates and a declining number of new molecular entities put on the market, and recognized by both industries and regulatory authorities. A number of “new” treatments thus account for the reorientation of existing molecules towards new therapeutic targets. In this context, active substances are also combined for an increasing range of disorders, as in the case of HIV tri-therapy, treatments for epilepsy and tuberculosis, or Artemisinin Combination Therapy for malaria. While it holds a marginal place in the global practice of biomedicine, the use of these composite pharmaceuticals is of significant material and epistemological, as well as social and sociological relevance. This is particularly true in Asia. Whether it concerns the innovative hybrid formulas stemming from the industry of traditional medicines, the physicians’ clinical practice aiming to answer novel epidemics and drug resistances, or the extemporaneous drug assemblages made in pharmacies and other (illicit) outlets, pharmaceuticals are often combined with the intention to create original, poly-molecular therapeutic entities. These practices are not to be confused with, or understood as medical ‘prescriptions’ but as producing single yet composite materials on their own. This panel takes these objects as a privileged vantage point for the study of material culture and economy, regimes of knowledge production, and social and regulatory environments. It brings together a multidisciplinary panel (anthropology, history, social pharmacy) in a collective attempt to shed light on the many dimensions of polytherapyas it faces epidemiological, medical, legal and sociocultural challenges in India, China, Cambodia, Thailand and The Philippines.logo-icas10

The Panel will be held during the 10th International Conference of Asian Scholars (ICAS10).

Download the programme and the abstracts


Stefan Ecks (University of Edinburgh)

Jean-Paul Gaudillière (CERMES3, Paris)

Anita Hardon (University of Amsterdam)

Niyada Kiatying-Angsulee (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)

Laurent Pordié (CERMES3, Paris)


Laurent Pordié (CNRS-Cermes3, Paris)


The Panel is funded by the ERC GLOBHEALTH and the Research Centre on Science, Medicine and Society (Cermes3 – EHESS, CNRS, Inserm), Paris.



Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center, Chaing Mai, Thailand