The healthcare field as a marketplace: General practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, and profit-led prescribing in Pakistan

Document Type



Community Health Sciences; Pathology and Laboratory Medicine


Incentivisation of general practitioners (GPs) by pharmaceutical companies is thought to affect prescribing practices, often not in patients' interest. Using a Bourdieusian lens, we examine the socially structured conditions that underpin exchanges between pharmaceutical companies and GPs in Pakistan. The analysis of qualitative interviews with 28 GPs and 13 pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs) shows that GPs, through prescribing medicines, met pharmaceutical sales targets in exchange for various incentives. We argue that these practices can be given meaning through the concept of 'field' - a social space in which GPs, PSRs, and pharmacists were hierarchically positioned, with their unique capacities, to enable healthcare provision. However, structural forces like the intense competition between pharmaceutical companies, the presence of unqualified healthcare providers in the healthcare market, and a lack of regulation by the state institutions produced a context that enabled pharmaceutical companies and GPs to use the healthcare field, also, as space to maximise profits. GPs believed the effort to maximise incomes and meet socially desired standards were two key factors that encouraged profit-led prescribing. We conclude that understanding the healthcare field is an important step toward developing governance practices that can address profit-led prescribing.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Health sociology review