Big Pharma

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Term 2, 2010/11
MGMT003 Business, Government and Society (BGS)
Instructor:Dr. Gilbert Tan

An analysis of Case 29: Big Pharma’s Marketing Tactics
Introduction
The Big Pharma controversy is about the wide-scale marketing malpractices used by big pharmaceutical companies in America which resulted in a series of negative implications on consumers. It revolves around pharmaceutical companies, government regulators, health professionals (or “unprofessional”), market consumers and the medical watchdogs. The dispute was formed between the supporters of the marketing tactics used by pharmaceutical representatives and the detractors to it. Specifically it is the context that matters: Is it right, or rather ethical for the medical professionals to profit at the expense of the patients? Are there more underlying factors that led to this controversy? It is important to achieve a balance between the benefits and drawbacks of the marketing tactics used by the pharmaceutical industry; however it is more essential to consider the ethical issues pertaining to these tactics. Certainly, both the consumer welfare and health are of primary concern; but our ethical obligations are not discharged solely by a guarantee of some degree of protection from harm. Still, I strongly believe that the health considerations of consumers should be put before profit maximization, because, unmistakably, the pharmaceutical industry has the responsibility to treat people’s health, instead of harming them. This essay will seek to examine the ethical implications of drug promotion efforts by pharmaceutical giants, the social impacts of drug promotion on consumers as well as the approaches to contain this dispute. Key Issues To Be Discussed

The key ethical issues of argument related to Big Pharma are the questionable marketing practices exercised by the pharmaceutical industry, product safety, science for sale and lobbying efforts. These critical issues have been emotive and multi-dimensional. As a result, it attracted a wide range of views about the topic. Questionable Marketing Practices

The marketing efforts of Big Pharma have always been under the media spotlight and the scrutinization of the public and medical watchdogs. The pharmaceutical marketers have made use of different medium to reach to the potential consumers and professionals. The extensiveness of the promotion efforts of the drugs had proliferated into every corners people’s lives. However, many believe that the pharmaceutical industry’s hunger for profits triumphs over their genuine desire to help the public, and that this blinded concern for profits continues to shape the future of this industry. The core of this debate is whether the high cost of drugs is justifiable by the cost of research and development done by the pharmaceutical companies. Has the money been used elsewhere? In fact, the world’s major drug companies have been accused of spending large sums of money on promoting their drugs, rather than researching on them. Big Pharma has developed a plethora of ways to reach out to the public to advertise on their latest and greatest drugs; from television and radio spots to newspaper and internet ads. The advertising budget for the drug companies have sky-rocketed to a significant sum. In 2007, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)'s biggest advertising price tag was attached to Advair, the firm's blockbuster asthma medication, which rung up US$127 million in advertising spending. The total amount of money spent on marketing by pharmaceuticals was U.S. $57.5 billion for 2004. The total spent on domestic industrial pharmaceutical R&D was U.S. $31.5 billion. Clearly, the promotional workings of the drug companies have shown that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is still mainly marketing-driven. Corrupted practices among doctors and health professionals are not uncommon in the pharmaceutical industry either. Doctors or even undergraduate medical students were bombarded with logo-infested freebies...
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