The medical–industrial complex is the network of corporations which supply health care services and products for a profit. The term is analogous to "military–industrial complex" and builds from the social precedent of discussion on that concept.
The medical–industrial complex is often discussed in the context of conflict of interest in the health care industry.
The concept of a "medical–industrial complex" was first advanced by Barbara and John Ehrenreich in the November 1969 issue of the Bulletin of the Health Policy Advisory Center in an article entitled "The Medical Industrial Complex" and in a subsequent book (with Health-PAC), The American Health Empire: Power, Profits, and Politics (Random House, 1970). The concept was widely discussed throughout the 1970s, including reviews in the New England Journal of Medicine (November 4, 1971, 285:1095). It was further popularized in 1980, Arnold S. Relman while he served as editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. in a paper titled "The New Medical-Industrial Complex." Relman commented, "The past decade has seen the rise of another kind of private "industrial complex" with an equally great potential for influence on public policy — this time in health care..." Oddly, Relman added, " In searching for information on this subject, I have found no standard literature and have had to draw on a variety of unconventional sources..." Subsequently, this paper and the concept have been discussed continually. An updated history and analysis can be found in John Ehrenreich, "Third Wave Capitalism: How Money, Power, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest have Imperiled the American Dream" (Cornell University Press, May 2016).
Another trend is that increased pressure to generate profit for providing services can decrease the influence of creativity or innovation in medical research.
The influence of economic policy on the practice of medicine has a long history.
Because the General Agreement on Trade in Services regulates international marketplaces, in countries where the industrial-medical complex is more strong there can be legal limitations to consumer options for accessing diverse healthcare services.
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