Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD

Jeremy A. Greene, MD, PhD

Director, Institute of the History of Medicine; Director, Center for Medical Humanities & Social Medicine; Professor, History of Medicine; Professor, Medicine


Institute of the History of Medicine
The Johns Hopkins University
1900 East Monument Street
Baltimore, MD 21205

Research Interests

Twentieth century clinical medicine;  pharmaceuticals; medical technology; medical anthropology; global health; history of disease.

I am broadly interested in the history of disease, and my research explores the ways in which medical technologies come to influence our understandings of what it means to be sick or healthy, normal or abnormal.

My most recent book, Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine, narrates the history of generic drugs as a means of exploring problems of similarity and difference in modern medicine.   Generic drugs are never fully identical to the brand name products they imitate.  Rather, their claims to being ‘the same’ lies in proof that they are similar enough in ways that matter to be functionally interchangeable. As the market for generic substitutes has grown–from only 10% of the American pharmaceutical market in 1960 to nearly 80% by 2010–so too have epistemological and epidemiological conflicts over how one can prove that generics are truly equivalent to their brand-name counterparts.   These debates over generic drugs reveal fundamental conflicts over what it means to practice rational medicine, and what role consumers, physicians, insurers, and others should have in defining that rationality.

My current project, The Electronic Patient   examines how changing expectations of instantaneous communications through electric, electronic, and digital media transformed the nature of medical practice and medical knowledge.  This research is focused on recapturing how seemningly mundane communications technologies have enabled and altered the production, circulation, and consumption of medical knowledge, from telegraph to text pager, telephone to telemedicine, fax machine to Facebook.  This work has been supported by a  Faculty Scholars Fellowship from the Greenwall Foundation and a G13 Award from the National Library of Medicine.

My broader research interests focus on the history of disease, medical technology, the history of global health, and the relationship between medicine and the marketplace. I received my MD and PhD in the history of science from Harvard in 2005, completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in 2008, and am board certified in Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians. In addition to my appointment at the Institute for the History of Medicine, I also practice internal medicine at the East Baltimore Medical Center, a community health center affiliated with Johns Hopkins.

Selected Books

Greene JA, Condreau F, and Watkins ES (eds.) Therapeutic Revolutions: Pharmaceuticals and Social Change in the 20th Century.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016 (in press).

Greene JA.  Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

Greene JA and Watkins, ES. (eds.) Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing Prescriptions in Modern America. Baltimore, 2012.

Greene JA. Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Selected Articles

Bothwell, L, Greene JA, Podolsky SH, Jones DS.  Assessing the gold standard: Lessons from the history of RCTs.  NEJM 2016:374:2175-81.

Greene JA. Do-it-yourself medical devices: Technology and empowerment in American health care.  NEJM 2016; 374: 305-9.

Greene JA, Riggs KR. Why is there no generic insulin? Historical origins of a modern problem.  New England Journal of Medicine 2015; 372:1171-1175.

Jones DS, Greene JA, Duffin J, Harley Warner J.  Making the case for history in medical education. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences; 70(1):2015 (e-publication ahead of print).

Greene JA. The materiality of the brand: Form, function, and the pharmaceutical trademark.  History and Technology 2013; 29(2):210-226.

Jones DS, Podolsky SH, Greene JA.  The burden of disease and the changing task of medicine.  New England Journal of Medicine 2012; 366(25):233-8.

Greene JA. What’s in a name?  Generics and the persistence of the pharmaceutical brand in American medicine. Journal of the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences 2011; 66(4): 425-467.

Greene JA and Kesselheim AS.  Why do the same drugs look different?  Pills, trade dress, and public health. The New England Journal of Medicine 2011; 365(1):83-89.

Greene JA. Making medicines essential: the evolving role of pharmaceuticals in global health. BioSocieties 2011; 6:10-33.

Greene JA and Podolsky SH. Keeping modern in medicine: pharmaceutical promotion and physician education in postwar America. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 2009; 83: 331-377.


Greene JA. “Pharmaceutical Geographies: Mapping the Boundaries of the Therapeutic Revolution”. in Greene JA, Condrau F, and Watkins ES.  Therapeutic Revolutions. Chicago, Univ Chicago Press  (in press, 2016).

Greene JA. “The Afterlife of the Prescription: Sciences of Therapeutic Surveillance” in Greene, Jeremy A. and Watkins, Elizabeth S. (eds.) Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing Prescriptions in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.

Greene JA. “Regulating Drugs, Regulating Disease: Diabetes, Consumerism, and the Tolbutamide Crisis, 1969-1984” in Jean-Paul Gaudilliere and Volker Hess (eds.), Making Drugs: Ways of Regulating in Factories, Laboratories, and Consulting Rooms. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011: 122-136.

Daemmrich A and Greene JA.  “From Visible Harm to Relative Risk: Overcoming Fragmented Pharmacovigilance,” in Elhage, E. (ed.), The Fragmentation of U.S. Health Care: Causes and Solutions.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010. 301-323.

Greene JA. “The Abnormal and the Pathological: Cholesterol, Statins, and the Threshold of Disease” in Andrea Tone and Elizabeth Watkins (eds.), Medicating Modern America: Pharmaceutical Drugs in History. New York: New York University Press, 2007; 183-228.

Broadcast media (selected)

  1. NPR: Marketplace: “The Future of the Pharmaceutical Sales Rep” 17 December 2013,​ 
  2. NPR: Science Friday: “The Science of Sameness: Developing Generic Medications” 12 September 2014,
  3. WYPR: Morning Edition with Sheilah Kast: “Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine” 22 September 2014,
  4. NPR: The People’s Pharmacy “The Pros and Cons of Generic Drugs” 13 December 2014,
  5. WAMU: The Kojo Nmandi Show: “Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine” 23 December 2014,
  6. WPR: Central Time: “A Cultural History of Generic Drugs in America”, 30 September 2014, 31 December 2014,
  7. NPR: Shots: “Why is Insulin So Expensive in the U.S.?”  19 March, 2015,
  8. WNYC: The Leonard Lopate Show: “Similar How? The Cultural and Political Fights for Generic Drugs” 20 March 2015,
  9. NPR: Morning Edition: “20 Years After Its Discovery, No Generic Insulin Sold in the U.S.”  22 March 2015,
  10. WPR: Central Time, “Record $374 Billion Spent on Prescription Drugs in America Last Year” 14 April 2015;
  11. WGBH: Innovation Hub: “The Power of Generic Drugs” 9 July 2015,


Course Director, Scholarly Concentrations (History of Medicine)

SOM150.714 Outline of History of Modern Medicine

AS.140.668.01 Technologyin Context

AS150.702 History of Modern Medicine

SOM 150.816: Biomedicine: History, Concepts, Practices

FPHE Selective: Introduction to Social Medicine

Genes to Society: Workshop Leader in Pulmonary, GI, Reproductive Blocks

AS140.877.01: Directed Reading and Research