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Nikki Kouknas
English 106
Ms. Biesiada
March 26, 2015
Pharmaceutical Ethics
Corporate executives and business owners need to realize that there can be no
compromise when it comes to ethics, and there are no easy shortcuts to success. Ethics need to
be carefully sown into the fabric of their companies, claims entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa (np).
There is no better explanation of ethics for society or the pharmaceutical industry
specifically. Some pharmaceutical companies fail to release all data collected during
experiments and trials. They use manipulation and representatives to sell their products to
physicians and the general public. This paper will discuss the various problems in the industry
dealing with the code of ethics and how it can be resolved.
Drug companies use many different tactics to put out their drugs to physicians who will
in turn prescribe these drugs to their patients. A paper written by John Abromson discusses how
different pharmaceutical companies are able to sell their products. There is a practice of gift
giving that happens between the company representatives and the physicians. It is a way to form
a bond between the two. The drug companies will wine and dine, do anything to win over the
hearts of doctors in hopes that they will use their drugs. Gift giving disrupts the ethical standards
of all parties involved. In recent years, a movement has been made for doctors to pledge
commitment to saying no to promotional gifts. This pledge is known as the no free lunch
pledge (Abromson 126). In making this pledge, doctors agree to not be swayed by the extra
benefits companies give them to hear their seminars on new drugs. One doctor talks about his
personal experience as a representative to a drug company as well as his thoughts about other
representatives. While listening to one speaker the doctor thinks to himself, I wondered

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whether his positive opinion had been influenced by the money he was paid to give talks (Carlat
2). Dr. Carlat sees the effects of what paying other doctors to give talks does. It causes them to
repeat only the positive sides of drugs, because they know that if they dont sell the drug, they
will not get paid by the companies. Other marketing tactics companies use includes tracking
records. Abromson again states another point of conflict pharmaceutical companies make;
Through the purchase of pharmacy records, companies are often able to track which physicians
prescribe which medications for their patients. This information can then be used to personalize
the marketing strategy in meeting with physicians (Abromson 126). Companies can use this
information to tailor their arguments to the doctor in hopes of convincing them to help sell the
industrys products. Tracking the records of what physicians purchase and prescribe to patients is
highly unethical. Companies are able to see what the doctor is buying and how much of it. It
pries into the publics lives and is a violation of privacy. With this information drug companies
can give the physicians the parts they only want to hear, which is what the benefits of the drug is.
Dr. Carlat writes about how surprised he was to find how much drug companies really know
about the physician they are selling to. He says, specialized pharmacy-information companies
(like IMS Health and Verispan) buy prescription data from local pharmacies, repackage it, then
sell it to pharmaceutical companies (Carlat 5). With this information companies and
representatives can change certain details to appeal to specific doctors that will encourage them
to buy the companys product. The selling tactics companies use need to be changed. It is not
right to sell the physician a drug with lavish outings, nor to look through their records.
Companies have a set of principles to abide by. Often there are loop holes they can jump
through that can avoid showing everything and the possible penalties that would come along
with it. Leonard Weber takes notice of the implications caused by withholding information. He

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states, Stopping the research prematurely prevents it from providing any useful medical
information and thus breaks covenant with the volunteer participants; it exposes them to some
risk without a justifying benefit of valid medical knowledge (Weber 120). By ending a clinical
trial or test early, researchers could put patients at risk. The researchers may see the short term
effects of the study and conclude that the drug is safe and helpful, but they do not run it to see the
long term effects. They use the information they want and discard the rest. He continues to state
what an ethical reason would be for ending an experiment early; The legitimate reasons for
stopping a clinical trial early include safety concerns and insufficient patient enrollment. These
decisions should be made by an independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB), not by
the sponsors (Weber 120). Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for ending a trial early. If
someone finds out that the drug is completely useless or puts the participant in danger, the
experiment can be stopped. If the patients privacy is compromised or there are no longer enough
participants in the experiment to give enough accurate information are other reasons why an
experiment would end early. There can be ethical reasons as to why someone would want to end
a trial early, however, stopping them because the researcher doesnt want to see the negative
effects is not one of them.
In an effort to solve the ethics problem, many are pushing the ethics agenda. This
agenda looks to accomplish the following: to look at the relationships between the
pharmaceutical industry and physicians around the country, to show what the companys ethics
and goals are when it comes to selling their medications to the patients, to reevaluate the
standards that physicians should follow and be protected by, to encourage the public to question
the pharmaceutical companies thoroughly and constantly, and finally to be able promote overall
good ethics in the pharmaceutical industry. (Hoffman 493). With these rules set in place, the

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pharmaceutical industry can be held more accountable for its actions. It will also force the public
to be adamant with how the industry acts. Continuing on Weber also states, The public should
demand that pharmaceutical companies assess their reward practices for sales representatives to
ensure that they are truly rewarding the kind of behavior, and only the kind of behavior, that is
compatible with the scientific and service nature of medical practice (Weber 51). By following
this idea, the notion of the no free lunch pledge comes back. Instead of rewarding physicians for
advertising and selling the product, they will be rewarded for giving accurate and honest
In conclusion, it is important to hold pharmaceutical companies and their representatives
accountable for doing the ethical thing. The public must see that pampering physicians is wrong,
and can lead to dangerous outcomes, such as prescribing drugs that are more harmful then they
are good. Companies should not be allowed to see doctors purchasing records. Researchers
should not end trials early or withhold information from the public. In order to fix all these
problems, people should push for an ethical agenda that will make companies more honest and

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Works Cited
Abramson, John . Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine (New York:
HarperCollins, 2004). Web. 6 March 2015.
Carlat, Daniel. Dr. Drug Rep. The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Nov. 2007. Web.
Mar 2015.
"Ethics Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
Hoffman, Michael W.. Business and Environmental Ethics, In Business Ethics for the 21st
Century, Ed. David M. Adams and Edward W. Maine. Mountain View, California:
Mayfield, 1998. Web. 6 March 2015.
Weber, Leonard J.. Profits Before People? : Ethical Standards and the Marketing of Prescription
Drugs. Bloomington, IN, USA: Indiana University Press, 2006. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5
March 2015.