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The Lomidine Files

The Untold Story of a Medical Disaster in Colonial Africa

Guillaume Lachenal
translated by Noémi Tousignant

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Tracing the nightmarish effects of the "wonder drug" Lomidine in preventing sleeping sickness in Africa.

Winner of the George Rosen Prize by the American Association for the History of Medicine

After the Second World War, French colonial health services, armed with a newly discovered drug, made the eradication of sleeping sickness their top priority. A single injection of Lomidine (known as Pentamidine in the United States) promised to protect against infection for six months or longer. Mass campaigns of "preventive lomidinization" were launched with immense enthusiasm across Africa. But the…

Tracing the nightmarish effects of the "wonder drug" Lomidine in preventing sleeping sickness in Africa.

Winner of the George Rosen Prize by the American Association for the History of Medicine

After the Second World War, French colonial health services, armed with a newly discovered drug, made the eradication of sleeping sickness their top priority. A single injection of Lomidine (known as Pentamidine in the United States) promised to protect against infection for six months or longer. Mass campaigns of "preventive lomidinization" were launched with immense enthusiasm across Africa. But the drug proved to be both inefficient and dangerous. Contaminated injections caused bacterial infections that progressed to gangrene, killing dozens of people. Shockingly, the French physicians who administered the shots seemed to know the drug’s risk: while they obtained signed consent before giving Lomidine to French citizens, they administered it to Africans without their consent—sometimes by force.

In The Lomidine Files, Guillaume Lachenal traces the medicine’s trajectory from experimental trials during the Second World War, when it was introduced as a miracle cure for sleeping sickness, to its abandonment in the late 1950s, when a series of deadly incidents brought lomidinization campaigns to a grinding halt. He explores colonial doctors’ dangerously hubristic obsession with an Africa freed from disease and describes the terrible reactions caused by the drug, the resulting panic of colonial authorities, and the decades-long cover-up that followed.

A fascinating material history that touches on the drug’s manufacture and distribution, as well as the tragedies that followed in its path, The Lomidine Files resurrects a nearly forgotten scandal. Ultimately, it illuminates public health not only as a showcase of colonial humanism and a tool of control but also as an arena of mediocrity, powerlessness, and stupidity.

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The Lomidine Files

Guillaume Lachenal
translated by Noémi Tousignant

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Reviews

This is a serious work that deserves serious contemplation; it will be of interest to historians from a variety of fields.

Impeccably researched, compellingly argued, and beautifully written, The Lomidine Files is an important book that rewrites older scholarship on African sleeping sickness while offering an original analytical strategy and methodology for reconfiguring histories of colonial medicine. A superb book, provocative, wide-ranging, and theoretically informed.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
240
ISBN
9781421423234
Illustration Description
15 b&w photos, 2 maps
Table of Contents

Introduction
1. The Wonder Drug
2. Experiments without Borders
3. The New Deal of Colonial Medicine
4. The Spectacle of Eradication
5. Lomidine, the Individual, and Race
6. Good Citizens and Bad Brothers
7

Introduction
1. The Wonder Drug
2. Experiments without Borders
3. The New Deal of Colonial Medicine
4. The Spectacle of Eradication
5. Lomidine, the Individual, and Race
6. Good Citizens and Bad Brothers
7. Yokadouma, Cameroon, November–December 1954
8. "We Cried without Making a Palaver"
9. The Misfires of the Imperial Machine
10. The Swan Song of Eradication
11. How the Drug Became Useless and Dangerous
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
Notes
Index

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Guillaume Lachenal

Guillaume Lachenal is an associate professor in the history of science at the University Paris Diderot. He is the author of Le médecin qui voulut être roi: Sur les traces d’une utopie coloniale.
Featured Contributor

Noémi Tousignant

Noémi R. Tousignant is an affiliate member of the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University and a guest researcher in history at the Université de Montréal. She is coeditor of Traces of the Future: An Archaeology of Medical Science in Twenty-First Century Africa.