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The ready availability and extreme popularity of Western pharmaceuticals in developing countries poses important general issues for medical anthropology. In attempting to explain why medicines are so attractive in so many different cultures, this article suggests that they facilitate particular social and symbolic processes. The key to their charm is their con-creteness; in them healing is objectified. As things, they allow therapy to be disengagedfrom its social entanglements. Medicines are commodities which pass from one context of meaning to another. As substances, they are “good to think with” in both metaphoric and metonymic senses. They enhance the perception of illness as something tangible, and they facilitate communication about experiences that may be difficult to express. In the course of their transaction, they bear with them associations to authoritative professionals and the potency and potential of other cultural contexts of which they once were a part.