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Sample Essay on Business Ethics in Pharmaceutical Industry

Business Ethics in Pharmaceutical Industry

Ethical issues in relation to the pharmaceutical industry have generated many media stories, television storylines, books, academic articles and conferences presentations. Even so, just a few individuals would commend the termination of branded products or generic pharmaceutical manufacturer because many of their products help in forestalling or preventing death, restoring lost or diminished functions as well as enhancing the lives and meaning of connection.

Product development and manufacture occurs in an exceptionally economical market and as a result, a wide range of business activities can be justified morally according to business ethics. The Code of ethics therefore needs to be based on integrity, sincerity and accountability standards. It not only contributes to creation of the sector’s constructive image as well as rising allegiance of company employees that categorize themselves based on company philosophy when they realize that they operate in an ethical atmosphere.

Social changes and pressure on keeping developed ethical standards in the society in values publicly declared in a given pharmaceutical setting. The commercialization demand is apparent, conversely that there is enhanced community health protection.  Promotion of biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector must also consider ethical issue multiplicity especially those raised by commercialization and marketing.

Social marketing has therefore become one of the most important promotional tools putting emphasis on equilibrium maintenance especially between public interests, client satisfaction and company profits.

Problem Statement

Pharmaceutical ethics that can worry an individual or a company pharmaceutical firm as a body is undergoing evolution with pharmaceutical practices are quite diverse today than in the past. The pharmaceutical innovation and technology enhancement has also wrought pharmacists as well as the pharmaceutical sector.

The need for a solid ethics embedded into a person pharmacist consequently that will create an industry characterized with high ethical principles is imperative. Pharmacy and ethics must be approachable and responsive to an environment that is continually changing. Following different ethical values signifying the need for business to develop their code of conduct based on the activities that are considered to be wrong or right.

The pharmaceutical sector will also follow regulations, protocols, guiding principles and company regulations according to government description as well as other agencies in the industry they operate in.

Additionally, the industry does not necessarily carry out or engage in any activity or action that can be measured as iniquitous practice.

Research Questions

  • What are the moral issues associated with marketing and advertising pharmaceutical industry
  • What is the effect of pharmaceutical ethical issues on patients?
  • Are there any moral issues in regards to product distribution by pharmaceutical industry?
  • What are the ethical issues that arise from using complementary or alternative drugs?
  • What are the approaches that can be utilized to address different moral issues in a pharmaceutical industry?

Objectives of the Study

  • To analyze current advertisement practices in pharmaceutical department analyzing both pharmacist and consumer oriented promotion
  • To provide marketing practices examples and their impact on doctor and consumer behavior
  • To identify the negative effects of these practices that includes misleading promotion and
  • To study different corporate promotional practices in the pharmaceutical industry

Importance of the study

Pharmaceutical products have ability to save lives, treat illness and cure diseases. Patients are therefore important beneficiaries of diverse products produced and advertised by medication companies. Sometimes, such companies might go out of their way to convince medics, intermediaries in their chain of supply as well as their relatives who will be in charge of dispensing drugs to consumers all in the name of promoting their products.

Moral issues related to marketing and promotion of pharmaceutical products has received a lot of attention in the past years. Buyers and sellers are known to meet in the marketplace with something akin to equal footing, but because it is not feasible in pharmaceutical industry, patients must rely on a medic for professional guidance or assistance.  This advice should therefore be untainted by inducements offered by pharmaceutical companies (Davidson, 2005).

Literature Review

Pharmacists face moral dilemma on the use of alternative and complementary medicines. A professional health care pharmacist is required to provide high level of evidence based and unbiased health care (Applebe et al., 2002) while their business is expected to make profits. Business roles and pharmacist’s professionalism roles are therefore in conflict with alternative medicine sales.

Additionally, pharmaceutical companies are important to the health structure by complementing other types of healthcare services; they can reduce morbidity, mortality and enhance the quality of life. Therefore, access to essential medication and healthcare is increasingly considered as a basic human requirement. The capacity of pharmaceutical companies also enhance health, reduce suffering and saves lives although it depends on their safety, quality, affordability, availability and their use whether appropriately or not (World Health Organization, 2009).

The industry is also known to be highly susceptible to corruption and immoral practices because of the significance of pharmaceutical drugs (World Health Organization, 2009). Stakeholders concerned on the issue are different, many and they have diverse objectives. The stakeholders in the industry include wholesalers, sales, representatives, retailers, prescribers, researchers, policy makers and regulators (Subedi, 2009).

The dilemma also arises with high competition and there is more than just one firm that manufactures the same product under a different brand name for a similar market. There are also many pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the same drugs and each company aims at selling many drugs to help maximize the proceeds. The companies also manufacture drugs similar to other manufactures instead of offering novel products to consumers.

Previously in many states, advertising and promotion of moral pharmaceutical products was carried out for the pharmacist and physician. However, in early 1990s, many companies started to direct promotions towards the consumer, direct to consumer promotion (DTC).  DTC promotions were mainly used in many developed countries to create public awareness that physicians had a new treatment to enable them cure a specific disease.

Many promotions did not name the products but instead, asked patients with specific symptoms and problems to consult a physician for advice. This kind of DTC advertisement was also popular in the US and the question remains, is it ethical to influence the public asking their physicians on drug prescription.

Promotion and advertising to physicians, symposia and seminars in addition to the above goes on as usual. Many sales representatives are active calling on pharmacists, doctors and other health care providers. These representatives provide information on company products, how to use, available dosage forms as well as possible effects of the drugs.

They also provide samples to physicians and they are utilized in treatment of a new patient. In other cases, it can be used to give medication to a patient who is not in a position to purchase the drug. Ethical questions are also been regularly asked on whether it is ethical to give free samples or free medications to clients. Some countries have regulated against such moves for specific prescription drugs categories.

As Ackerman points out (2010), identity is the value of developing potential (Ackerman, 2010). For pharmaceutical companies on this note, the product is their identity as well as their promise to push through their products creating value for them. This can be tested through the product’s effectiveness. Even so, many consumers in many occasions are not aware of the brand and its promises.

As a matter of fact, they have to rely on and trust a professional advice from a health practitioner be it a pharmacist or a doctor. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies employ health practitioners to help communicate product messages and promises to clients. Brand promise is what you tell to your clients and what is delivered.


I believe that pharmaceutical companies should be apprehensive with moral issues not only to distinguish and make inclinations on what is wrong and right but also to be transparent to prevent any ‘grey area’ as many scholars point out because many take advantage of . Grey areas should be eliminated to aid in moral decision making process.

Moral issue on foundation with law can provide a strong foundation to enhance the standard as well as quality for the pharmaceutical industry. Many pharmaceutical companies have for a long time maintained influence over medical personnel and the medical field. As in the case of any other business, it is also essential to exert force in the market to benefit from it.

A company’s marketing strategy and actions it undertakes to put pressure may at times lead to ethical debate. Pharmaceutical industry has also moved from being an ethically sound innovative partner in health development and to an inherent corporate giant that illegally markets its products, exploits physicians and patients alike to generate huge profits (Cousins, 2009).



Ackerman, L. (2010). The Identity Effect. OD Practitioner, 36-42.

Applebe G. E., Wingfield J., Taylor L. (2002). Practical Exercises in Pharmacy Law and Ethics. Pharmaceutical Press, London.

Cousins, C. (2009). Pharmaceutical Marketing: The Unethical Reform of an Industry. University of Kentucky, Gatton College of Business & Economics. Gatton Student Research Publication.

Davidson, D. K. (2005, April 24). When does a gift to a doctor become a bribe? Marketing News, 29(9).

Subedi, M. (2009). Trade in Health Sector: Unfair Competition in Pharmaceutical products in Nepal. Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 3, 123 – 142.

World Health Organization. (2009). Measuring Transparency in the Public Pharmaceutical Sector. WHO.

Davidson, D. K. (2005, April 24). When does a gift to a doctor become a bribe? Marketing News, 29(9).


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