Ethical Issues in the Pharmaceutical Industry
No one can deny that the pharmaceutical industry has made significant contributions to human progress. The pharmaceutical industry has been responsible for drugs that have saved millions of lives, cured many forms of cancer, and ensured that an AIDS diagnosis is no longer an automatic death sentence. Yet despite this there are questions that the public has on whether the industry has been fulfilling their social responsibility. There are many ethical questions that need to be addressed on how the pharmaceutical industry can be a better corporate citizen, and how the public can also ensure that when they go to the doctors, that decisions on their health are not in some way being influenced by the pharmaceutical industry who’s main objective may not be the health or well being of the patient. This essay attempts to delve into these questions and concerns in regard to patience rights and the proper relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and the public. It will explore how much influence the industry has on doctor’s decision making and what ethical lines are being crossed in the relationship between health care and pharmaceutical industry. It will also explore the roll the FDA plays in protecting Americans against potential drug issues and whether or not it is being impeded by a revolving door where key pharmaceutical executives are actually working for and with the FDA to effect policy on their very organization. Finally it will question how the industry should balance their rights of their own intellectual property and patents with the needs of the communities that rely on their product for their well being.
The pharmaceutical industry, like most, depends on the simple business principals of supply and demand. The drug companies make and sell their products; however they cannot sell directly to the consumer and must rely on the medical profession and the doctors who prescribe them to their patience. The doctors however do in fact rely on the pharmaceutical companies for their drugs that are developed to treat their patience. This interdependency creates some unique circumstances and a duality of interests which can often lead to a conflict of interests. The main reason behind this potential conflict of interests lies in the fact that physicians and the pharmaceutical industry each have a different emphasis and they focus on different stakeholders (Gupta, 2004). The pharmaceutical companies emphasize maximum value for their stakeholders which in this case are their shareholders. Their emphasis is to maximize the use of their products, whereas the doctor’s primary stakeholder is their patient and their ultimate health and well being.
This symbiotic relationship creates some huge ethical concerns that are shared by both the medical profession as well as the public at large. The main concern is that this relationship may serve the needs and business objectives of the drug companies and the interests of the doctors that have a lucrative relationship with the pharmaceutical representatives as opposed to the needs of the patient. This relationship is spawned by the needs of the pharmaceutical companies to market and promote their products directly to the doctors who can prescribe their drugs. It is estimated that the average capital expenditure for drug companies per doctor is over $8000.00 and the total amount spent on sales representatives is $5 billion (Kerridge, Komesaroff 2002, p. 118). This amount of money spent is sure to command loyalty from medical practitioners. This money is spent in various forms, one being the giving of gifts. These gifts can range from travel expenses with lavish accommodations, cruises, and costly concert tickets and other venues. A recent study showed that over a period of one year, a medical practitioner or intern will have received 35...