Perceived risks and benefits of nanomedicine: a case study of an anti-tuberculosis drug
Nanotechnologies are novel and have intriguing properties, and yet they have some potential for harm. Using the case study of a nanoparticle anti- tuberculosis drug, this paper analyses the considerations of different stakeholders in assessing the potential risks and benefits of nanomedicine. Interview data from patients, nurses, caregivers and scientists from Gauteng province in South Africa were analysed through the lens of the Social Construction of Technology theoretical framework, which emphasises the importance of understanding the influence of social context on the development, interpretation and use of technologies. The stakeholders displayed varying interpretations of the drug based on their vested interests. To the patients, nurses and caregivers, their challenges in the treatment of tuberculosis influenced what they perceived to be potential risks and benefits of the drug. The scientists considered the functionality of the drug and its potential societal benefits but were also concerned about side effects. The study reveals that the context of stakeholders matters in their assessment of the risks and benefits of nanomedicine. Thus, it is not sufficient to assess a technology focusing only on its technical properties, but it is important to consider how the technology is nested in its broader social, political and cultural environment.
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