The reinterpretation of Western pharmaceuticals among the Mende of Sierra Leone

Caroline H. Bledsoe*, Monica F. Goubaud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The inappropriate use of Western medicines among the Mende of Sierra Leone is addressed as a cultural issue. We show that traditional beliefs about diseases and treatments have provided the explanatory framework for the contemporary Mende in reinterpreting the function of many Western medicines that are available to them. People appear to base their treatment decisions largely on traditional notions of the efficacy of a medicine of a particular color, consistency, taste, size and reputed success in treating analogous illnesses. This helps to explain why people's uses of these medicines are often at odds with Western manufacturer's assumptions about their appropriate uses. Implications of these usesfor local as well as international health are drawn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-282
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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