Historical Social Research

Axel C. Hüntelmann,Pharmaceutical Markets in the German Empire. Profits Between Risk, Altruism and Regulation [Abstract]

For the first time in August 1894, phials of anti-diphtheria serum went on sale in German pharmacies. Anti-diphtheria serum was a major therapeutic innovation in the treatment of a terrible infectious disease. The anti-diphtheria serum also signalled the evolution of new regulatory institutions, as well as new markets in industrially produced pharmaceutics. The new serum therapy offered not only a cure for diphtheria and other fatal infectious diseases, but also promised high profits for the manufacturers who could stabilize the production process. It attracted the state’s attention for a number of reasons: the ambiguous legal situation, the production of serum for the free market and the prospect of high profits for the serum industry, and finally the novelty of serum therapy itself and the lack of information about its long-term effects. Drawing on concepts from economic sociology, I will argue that the evolving serum market was formatted by state authorities from the very first moment. This regulation was not imposed by “the state” but negotiated among actors like state officials, medical and public health professionals, and serum producers.