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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

3 - The Mirage of Mass Distribution: State Quinine and Essential Medicines


While many medicines and issues related to their accessibility were met with prevailing indifference in colonial budgets and medical discourses, there were some exceptions to this trend. Some medicines do seem to have been invested in as tools that, if made sufficiently widely available, could have an impact on disease control and on the reach of colonial health care. This was the case for two initiatives that promised to “democratize,” or at least to broaden and ruralize access to modern medicines in Vietnam: the creation of the State Quinine Service in 1909 and the authorization of dépôts de médicaments (medicines outlets) in 1920, whose function was to stock and distribute médicaments essentiels (essential medicines) in areas devoid of pharmacies and public health care facilities.