In this essay I am going to look at AstraZeneca PLC one of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies. By describing several relevant cases and commenting on them I will try to evaluate the extent to which the Company acts under the principles framing its corporate governance and corporate social responsibility policies.
To give brief overview, AstraZeneca PLC, formed on April 6, 1999, by the merger of British Zeneca Group PLC and Swedish Astra AB, is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. It is well illustrated by some key facts listed on the Company’s website:
“Our products are available in over 100 countries; sales in 2005 totalled $24 billion, with an operating profit of $6.5 billion; we spend over $14 million every working day on the research and development of new medicines that meet patient needs (total R&D spend in 2005: $3.4 billion); we employ around 12,000 people in research and development at 11 R&D centres in seven countries: Sweden, the UK, the US, Canada, France, India and Japan; we have some 14,000 people at 27 manufacturing sites in 19 countries, in total, we employ over 65,000 people worldwide: 58% in Europe, 28% in the Americas and 14% in the rest of the world” (AstraZeneca, 2006).
As AstraZeneca make more than 97% of its sales in prescription pharmaceutical sector, naturally, the Company’s main activities are discovering, developing, manufacturing and marketing those medicines for various areas of healthcare; to cite several examples, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neuroscience, oncology, infection, respiratory and inflammation. The best-selling AstraZeneca’s products include Arimidex, Crestor, Nexium, Seroquel and Symbicort. Due to the Company’s specialisation in prescription pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca’s marketing activities are mainly aimed at physicians (both primary care and specialist) and other health care specialists. (NYSE Group, 2006)
It is a fact that if the corporation is large, it is bound to attract certain amount of attention. That is the price of being at the top. Therefore, when a company gets as big as AstraZeneca is, there are always some responsibilities to deal with. The days when corporations were only required to make profits for their shareholders are gone. For that reason, today companies are expected to act in a way that would bring most benefit to all stakeholders (i.e. “individuals or groups which either: are harmed by, or benefit from, the corporation or whose rights can be violated, or have to be respected, by the corporation” (Crane & Matten, 2004). It seems that AstraZeneca knows how to play the game.
To begin with, not only have the Company its CR (Corporate Responsibility) policies and principles set, it also makes every effort to assure that these are being held. To support this, AstraZeneca has employed a Non-Executive Director with responsibility for supervising CR within company. Moreover, the Company has the whole Global Committee established to develop the CR framework, which adapted a little bit according to each area’s national, functional and site issues and priorities is used in the Company’s branches all over the world. In addition to these, AstraZeneca utilizes several different ways of evaluating the Company’s performance. All that information is available at the Company’s website to anyone interested. Paraphrasing what AstraZeneca representatives say, these measures are taken in order to make people actually believe in their proclaimed commitment to transparency and openness.
At this point one may consider whether it is enough. Should we assume that the Company has anticipated all that could have been expected? Not quite. While it is undoubtedly good that the Company acts with regard to certain regulations and is accountable to the public, still it only does what it has to do. Abiding law is obligatory. AstraZeneca might have been thinking along the same lines, when it decided to go beyond the extent of corporate...
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