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The Pharmaceutical Industry Essay

2339 words - 10 pages


Americans are bombarded with advertisements by the pharmaceutical industry with pharmacies on busy street corners, television commercials, magazine ads, as well as advertisements flashing across the computer screen while surfing the internet. They are all declaring the latest breakthroughs that medicine has to offer. In 2004, it was reported the prescription drug industry spent $57.5 billion in advertising, profiting $235.4 billion in overall drug sales (“Big Pharma,” 2008). In 2010 the sales increased to $307.4 billion (Stringer, 2011). This equates to 43% in total global market sales which spells big business for pharmaceuticals (“Big Pharma,” 2008). Usually, where there is big money involved, greed ensues followed by unethical business practices and the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. The purpose of this paper is to look at four questionable business practices common to the industry, the ethical theories behind them, followed by recommendations to change those practices and ultimately improve the culture within the pharmaceutical industry and America’s trust.
The Pharmaceutical industry is known for its “kickbacks” to health care providers. Many of the leading corporations in the prescription drug industry like Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Eli Lilly & Co, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, among others have paid billions in fines under the U.S. government’s False Claims Act for such questionable practices (“Americord Denounces,” 2013). These “kickbacks” are gifts or bribes given to influence doctors in prescribing their drugs to patients in place of the competition. These bribes include, cash payments, all-expense-paid family trips, sexual favors, among others (“Big Pharma’s,” 2013). It seems that doctors are not the only ones being bribed; nurses are a target as well by offering research and education grants as a reward for promoting particular medications to patients (Olssen, 2009). Bribes have been paid to overseas doctors in China and Africa as well (“Big Pharma’s,” 2013). There are also tactics as subtle as logo embossed clothing, coffee mugs, along with pens used at hospital registration desks and doctors’ offices for the sole purpose of getting into patient’s wallets.
Another “kickback” practice used by pharmaceutical representatives is a term in the industry called detailing. Detailing, building a relationship as it is called, is a practice whereby the pharmaceutical representatives get as much personal data on the physicians. This collection of data would include things such as: their hobbies, foods they like, their favorite sports team, and other things that they might be able to provide for them if they were to promote their particular drug (Harrison, 2013). They also invite physicians to training luncheons to discuss the latest breakthroughs in medications their company can offer their patients. The costs for these gifts and other “essentials” in the business are passed...

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