We argue that medicines are hybrids and assemblages.
Research in the placebo effect seems to support this view. In a recent article in NEJM, Kaptchuck and Miller explain:
“placebo effects are improvements in patients’ symptoms that are attributable to their participation in the therapeutic encounter, with its rituals, symbols, and interactions. … This diverse collection of signs and behaviors includes identifiable health care paraphernalia and settings, emotional and cognitive engagement with clinicians, empathic and intimate witnessing, and the laying on of hands”.
Positive (placebo) and negative (nocebo) effects on individuals can be explained through complex mechanisms involving the brain and genetic influences.
“the effects of symbols and clinician interactions can dramatically enhance the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals”
Kaptchuk, T. J. and F. G. Miller (2015). “Placebo Effects in Medicine.” New England Journal of Medicine 373(1): 8-9. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1504023