Coinciding with sixty years of the U.K. National Health Service (NHS), this article reviews the neglected area of the governance of the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS. It traces the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry, the state, and the NHS from the creation of the health service to the present, as they have grappled with the overlapping challenges of pharmaceutical safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness, pricing, promotion, and advertising. The article draws on the concepts of “corporate bias” and “regulatory capture” from political theory, and “counter-vailing powers” and “clinical autonomy” in medical sociology, while also introducing the new concepts of “assimilated allies” and “pharmaceuticalization” in order to synthesize a theoretical framework capable of longitudinal empirical analysis of pharmaceutical governance. The analysis identifies areas in which the governance of pharmaceuticals and the NHS has contributed to progress in health care since 1948. However, it is argued that that progress has been slow, restricted, and vulnerable to misdirection due to the enormous and unrivaled influence afforded to the pharmaceutical industry in policy developments. Countervailing influences against such corporate bias have often been limited and subject to destabilization by the industry's assimilated allies either within the state or in the embrace of pharmaceuticalization and consumerism.

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