Profits Before People?: Ethical Standards and the Marketing of Prescription Drugs

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The pharmaceutical industry has come under intense criticism in recent years. One poll found that 70% of the sample agreed that drug companies put profits ahead of people. Is this ... perception accurate? Have drug companies traded ethics for profits and placed people at risk? In Profits before People? Leonard J. Weber exposes pharmaceutical industry practices that have raised ethical concerns. Providing systematic ethical analysis and reflection, he discusses such practices as compensating physicians for serving as speakers or consultants, providing incentives to physicians to enroll patients as subjects in clinical research, and advertising prescription drugs to the public through the mass media. Weber’s critique of the industry is stern. While acknowledging that new industry guidelines are promising, he finds much room for improvement in the way drug companies market their products. Yet Weber makes a strong case that profits and ethics can coexist and that they are not mutually exclusive. In an effort to understand the proper place of commerce in disseminating information about new drugs, the book aims to clarify basic responsibilities and to help identify sound ethical practices. It recognizes that ethics and law are not the same, that “having a right” is different from “doing the right thing,” and that taking ethics seriously means recognizing that the law does not answer all questions about what is right. Weber points the way to more demanding standards and better practices that might begin to restore confidence in the drug industry. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The pharmaceutical industry has come under intense criticism in recent years. One poll found that 70% of the sample agreed that drug companies put profits ahead of people. Is this perception accurate? Have drug companies traded ethics for profits and placed people at risk?

In Profits before People? Leonard J. Weber exposes pharmaceutical industry practices that have raised ethical concerns. Providing systematic ethical analysis and reflection,
he discusses such practices as compensating physicians for serving as speakers or consultants,
providing incentives to physicians to enroll patients as subjects in clinical research, and advertising prescription drugs to the public through the mass media. Weber’s critique of the industry is stern. While acknowledging that new industry guidelines are promising, he finds much room for improvement in the way drug companies market their products. Yet Weber makes a strong case that profits and ethics can coexist and that they are not mutually exclusive.

In an effort to understand the proper place of commerce in disseminating information about new drugs,
the book aims to clarify basic responsibilities and to help identify sound ethical practices. It recognizes that ethics and law are not the same, that "having a right" is different from
"doing the right thing," and that taking ethics seriously means recognizing that the law does not answer all questions about what is right. Weber points the way to more demanding standards and better practices that might begin to restore confidence in the drug industry.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Albert I Wertheimer, BS, MBA, PhD (Temple University School of Pharmacy)
Description: This book looks at current pharmaceutical industry marketing practices from the perspective of ethical standards. It finds that marketing practices create serious risks and it provides arguments as to why these risks should be reduced or eliminated. The author hopes that readers will demand changes/improvements in the ethical standards employed in pharmaceutical marketing.
Purpose: The book makes the case that the pharmaceutical industry gets low grades for the ethical standards used in its pharmaceutical marketing activities. The topic is not exactly new or original. The inappropriate activities have been reported in the press at the time of their discovery. If one is researching the topic or presenting a lecture, the book becomes an excellent resource with much material in one place.
Audience: This is probably suitable for graduate students in health policy or public health or for the basis for graduate seminars in pharmacy administration or social medicine. It might be useful for attorneys preparing for a case in this area. Persons working in the field of ethics or business policy in MBA programs would likely find the book to be helpful as well. The author attempts to be objective, but returns again and again to the known instances of less than ethical practices.
Features: A good introduction discusses ethical pressures in for-profit business. This is followed by examples of pharmaceutical industry ethical lapses and a critique of voluntary ethical codes now in place. An abundance of information and citations is presented about pharmaceutical company speakers' bureaus, drug samples, medical education practices, and clinical research activities. The author does a good job of organizing the vast amount of assorted reports and news clippings. He objectively discusses the situation where something is legal even if undesirable, noting that this behavior is what shareholders expect in the pharmaceutical or any industry. The book lacks figures or tables or illustrations. They can break up the monotony, add clarity, and aid in the comprehension of material.
Assessment: The book is well written and valuable for this niche of pharmaceutical industry marketing ethics. It would be good to have it available at academic libraries and pharmaceutical industry libraries. Since there is no other book exactly like this one, it fills an interesting void.
Choice

"In this extremely topical text, Weber... takes on two of today's most critical issues: business ethics, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, and the marketing of prescription drugs to the general public.... This thoroughly engrossing book will be important reading for health care practitioners, drug-marketing representatives, and the public at large.... Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, professionals/practitioners, and general readers." —Choice

From the Publisher
"In this extremely topical text, Weber... takes on two of today's most critical issues: business ethics, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, and the marketing of prescription drugs to the general public.... This thoroughly engrossing book will be important reading for health care practitioners, drug-marketing representatives, and the public at large.... Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, graduate students,
professionals/practitioners, and general readers." —Choice
Choice

"In this extremely topical text, Weber... takes on two of today's most critical issues: business ethics, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, and the marketing of prescription drugs to the general public.... This thoroughly engrossing book will be important reading for health care practitioners, drug-marketing representatives, and the public at large.... Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, professionals/practitioners, and general readers." —Choice

Choice
In this extremely topical text, Weber... takes on two of today's most critical issues: business ethics, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, and the marketing of prescription drugs to the general public.... This thoroughly engrossing book will be important reading for health care practitioners, drug-marketing representatives, and the public at large.... Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, professionals/practitioners, and general readers.—Choice
From The Critics
Reviewer: Albert I Wertheimer, BS, MBA, PhD(Temple University School of Pharmacy)
Description: This book looks at current pharmaceutical industry marketing practices from the perspective of ethical standards. It finds that marketing practices create serious risks and it provides arguments as to why these risks should be reduced or eliminated. The author hopes that readers will demand changes/improvements in the ethical standards employed in pharmaceutical marketing.
Purpose: The book makes the case that the pharmaceutical industry gets low grades for the ethical standards used in its pharmaceutical marketing activities. The topic is not exactly new or original. The inappropriate activities have been reported in the press at the time of their discovery. If one is researching the topic or presenting a lecture, the book becomes an excellent resource with much material in one place.
Audience: This is probably suitable for graduate students in health policy or public health or for the basis for graduate seminars in pharmacy administration or social medicine. It might be useful for attorneys preparing for a case in this area. Persons working in the field of ethics or business policy in MBA programs would likely find the book to be helpful as well. The author attempts to be objective, but returns again and again to the known instances of less than ethical practices.
Features: A good introduction discusses ethical pressures in for-profit business. This is followed by examples of pharmaceutical industry ethical lapses and a critique of voluntary ethical codes now in place. An abundance of information and citations is presented about pharmaceutical company speakers' bureaus, drug samples, medical education practices, and clinical research activities. The author does a good job of organizing the vast amount of assorted reports and news clippings. He objectively discusses the situation where something is legal even if undesirable, noting that this behavior is what shareholders expect in the pharmaceutical or any industry. The book lacks figures or tables or illustrations. They can break up the monotony, add clarity, and aid in the comprehension of material.
Assessment: The book is well written and valuable for this niche of pharmaceutical industry marketing ethics. It would be good to have it available at academic libraries and pharmaceutical industry libraries. Since there is no other book exactly like this one, it fills an interesting void.
Phi Beta Kappa The Key Reporter
Weber's fine book is highly welcome. It takes a sobering look at the complex ethical issues faced by Big Pharma.
yourhealthandbalance.com
Medical professionals . . . will want to read this book; so too will people worried about the effects of big pharmaceutical companies on health care for Americans.
—David M. Wolf, M.A.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253347480
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Series: Bioethics and the Humanities Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Leonard J. Weber was on the faculty of the University of Detroit Mercy for more than
30 years. He is now an ethics consultant to healthcare organizations and is author of Business
Ethics in Healthcare (IUP, 2001). He lives in Detroit, Michigan.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgments

Introduction
I.
The Limits of Commercial Interests
1. Ethics and For-Profit Business
2. The
Pharmaceutical Industry and Its Stakeholders
II. Marketing to Healthcare
Professionals
3. Drug Companies and Healthcare Professionals: The Ethics Agenda
4.
Medical Professionalism and Scientific Integrity
5. The Industry's Code: Not Good
Enough
6. Drug Samples: The Most Important Gifts
7. Marketing Is Not Objective
Education
8. Medical Education: Industry at Arm's Length
9. Clinical Research and the Limits of Commercial Interests
III. Marketing to the Public
10. Citizens and
Consumers
11. Direct-to-Consumer Advertising: Conflicting Interests
12.
Direct-to-Consumer Advertising: Better Is
Better
Conclusion

Notes
Index

Indiana University Press

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