Merck and Vioxx Analysis

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Business and Professional Ethics
MERCK AND THE MARKETING OF VIOXX – CASE ANALYSIS

Questions

1) What are the highlights of the case?
2) What are the ethical issues in the case?
3) What the ethical theories evidenced in the case?
4) How would you resolve the problem?

What are the ethical issues in the case?
In identifying the issue(s) we first have to identify the level in which this business is operating. Merck & Company was a top, well respected pharmaceutical company in America as ranked by Fortune Magazine. We have now therefore eliminated the individual level of ethical thinking for CEO Raymond Gilmartin. Merck is operating on an organizational level and as CEO the issues faced are role oriented, this forces him to consider the implications of actions not to himself but to all parties concerned, that is the customers, investors and any stakeholders whose expectations are to be met. The ethical issues arising from this case are highlighted below: 1) Where should Merck & Company loyalty lie?

Should the company report the effects to the FDA and risk excessive losses for the company and its shareholders to save customers lives and possibly disappoint shareholders or Should they release the drugs and reap the profits? 2) Was Merck really acting in pursuit of their own self interests in aim of excessive profits and majority market share despite the risks? If they were considering shareholders or customers they would have examined the fact that releasing a defective drug may potentially harm the shareholders. 3) Was Merck and Company as ethical as they marketed the company to be? When conflicting results and doubts first surfaced, why did they turn a blind eye, the ethical person would have insisted on further research instead of spending so much money on marketing and creating strategies to “DODGE “ obvious harms.

What are the ethical theories evidenced in the case?
There are four theories evidenced. The first is that of the Ethical Relativist . When the company first announced the withdrawal of Vioxx, Raymond V Gilmartin, chairman and CEO of Merck stated it was the “responsible thing to do”. He further went on to explain this line of thinking was built into the principles of the company. Even after lawsuits that brought varying views that questioned the companies ethics, the Merck board still released a report that concluded that their executives and researchers did in fact act with integrity in addressing incomplete and conflicting evidence and that their conclusions were reached in good faith and were reasonable under the circumstances. Since the company insisted they were ethical in their line of thinking despite the lack of universal standards or rules used to guide or evaluate the morality of their actions. We can therefore assume Merck adopted an ethical relativist approach to ethical reasoning. This approach states that people set their own moral standards for judging their actions (Boatright,2012) which is clearly highlighted by Merck’s argument to defend releasing Vioxx on the market. The one sided view of their actions clearly highlights the weakness of using this approach, only your way is not necessarily the right or the correct moral standards. The next theory that is evidenced is the principle of utilitarianism which states that an action is morally right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number of persons concerned (Boatright,2012). I will argue this principle from two perspectives which will also highlight the disadvantages associated with this theory. Scenario 1

If Merck decides to release drugs and make billions in revenues, which will in turn benefit the company, investors and employees. The argument is a few thousands may die however when the billions earned will be reinvested in aim of developing new drugs which will potentially save way more lives. The greatest good for all concerned would then have been achieved. Also earnings from the drugs will...
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