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History and philosophy of regulatory science: the case of pharmaceuticals

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This paper traces some of the key historical developments in the modern regulatory science of pharmaceuticals, including toxicology, clinical testing, and pharmacovigilance. Attention focuses on what can be learned about regulatory science by examining both international differences in its conduct and the subsequent efforts at international harmonisation. Regulatory science is heavily influenced by social and political factors, but contrary to fashionable constructivist philosophy/sociology of science, this does not imply that regulatory science is simply politics by another name. By looking substantively at the history of regulatory science, one can see that there are intra-scientific material aspects that are relatively autonomous and/or independent of pervasive, powerful and undeniably influential extra-scientific socio-political forces. Empirical history of regulatory science is consistent with a realist, rather than a relativist or constructivist philosophy of science.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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