Ethics in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Subject: Business Ethics
Pages: 2
Words: 554
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


Ethical issues related to the pharmaceutical industry are often associated with dilemmas affecting the safety of people and the profit that companies in this field generate. Despite the commercial aspect of work, the pharmaceutical field is primarily aimed at helping the population, and any form of unfair activities applied to generate income at the expense of people’s well-being is unacceptable. Thus, advocacy for the consumer rather than the pharmaceutical industry is preferred.

Reasons to Support the Consumer

One of the key reasons to support the consumer when analyzing the ethical aspects of the pharmaceutical industry is the lack of transparency. According to Shaw and Whitney (2016), despite the existing ethical standards, a dynamic pharmaceutical business often hides individual production factors, such as drug ingredients, to generate profits. This practice poses a potential threat to human health and cannot be considered fair in conditions of business openness.

Another reason to advocate for the consumer is price fluctuations in the pharmaceutical field. As Layachi (2020) argues, one of the ethical principles related to pharmacists’ ethical code implies selling medicines at legal prices. Sometimes, drug manufacturers ignore this aspect and seek to raise the cost of their products, competing with other market participants. This practice affects people’s well-being negatively and requires the authorities’ participation to control and deter unethical activities related to pricing policies.

Finally, a large number of complaints and lawsuits coming from the population to pharmaceutical companies is a reason to take the side of the consumer. Shaw and Whitney (2016) note that, in an attempt to follow market trends, some organizations neglect people’s interests, which is expressed in citizens’ dissatisfaction with the work of such companies. Issues of access to medicines, fairness in the distribution of products in communities, and other ethical aspects prove the relevance of targeted work to keep people safe.

Meeting the Interests of Both Sides

One of the main reasons why pharmaceutical companies cannot serve their own interests and those of people equally is the commercial basis of work. As Bourcier-Bequaert et al. (2020) state, many organizations adhere to the fundamentals of business ethics, but their primary goal, however, is to generate profits. In other words, by neglecting their aims of capital accumulation, pharmaceutical companies will not be able to develop. This is contrary to the foundations of business and is a constraint on meeting people’s interests.

Maintaining market reputation is an important factor that explains the greater focus of pharmaceutical companies on individual development rather than customer satisfaction. Layachi (2020) gives an example of the fight against counterfeit products and remarks that many companies implement practices and guidelines to combat this ethical problem to follow legal principles of work. Nevertheless, these efforts are not aimed at optimizing their activities for the safety of people, which is a secondary concern. Thus, maintaining market positions is a high goal to pursue to generate profits.

Pharmaceutical companies’ interests have to prevail over those of the consumer since both parties do not interact directly. According to Bourcier-Bequaert et al. (2020), unlike doctors, the representatives of the pharmaceutical industry communicate with people indirectly, guided only by reviews and sales indicators. In such conditions, commercial interests are key and do not imply taking into account the individual preferences of the target audience. Therefore, these companies cannot meet their own and the consumer’s interests simultaneously.


Bourcier-Bequaert, B., Baïada-Hirèche, L., & Sachet-Milliat, A. (2020). Cure or sell: How do pharmaceutical industry marketers combine their dual mission? An approach using moral dissonance. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-27.

Layachi, O. B. (2020). International and national obligations to protect from the risks of pharmaceutical crime: The crime of counterfeit pharmaceutical products in the COVID-19 crisis. Systematic Reviews in Pharmacy, 11(2), 648-657. Web.

Shaw, B., & Whitney, P. (2016). Ethics and compliance in global pharmaceutical industry marketing and promotion: The role of the IFPMA and self-regulation. Pharmaceuticals Policy and Law, 18(1-4), 199-206.