Medical Innovation Revisited: Social Contagion versus Marketing Effort
This article shows that Medical Innovation—the landmark study by Coleman, Katz, and Menzel—and several subsequent studies analyzing the diffusion of the drug tetracycline have confounded social contagion with marketing effects. The article describes the medical community’s understanding of tetracycline and how the drug was marketed. This situational analysis finds no reasons to expect social contagion; instead, aggressive marketing efforts may have played an important role. The Medical Innovation data set is reanalyzed and supplemented with newly collected advertising data. When marketing efforts are controlled for, contagion effects disappear. The article underscores the importance of controlling for potential confounds when studying the role of social contagion in innovation diffusion.