Ethics and the Pharmaceutical Industry.

Author:Olson, Paulette
Position:Book review

Ethics and the Pharmaceutical Industry, edited by Michael A. Santoro and Thomas M. Gorrie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Hardback: ISBN-13: 978 0 521 85496 2, $40.00. 526 pages.

The concept of "business ethics" is often considered an oxymoron. Reading Ethics and the Pharmaceutical Industry will do little to challenge that perception. This edited volume documents a host of unethical marketing, business, and research practices that have contributed to the erosion of public trust in the pharmaceutical industry. The book's main message is that the time has come for the pharmaceutical industry to more closely align its priorities and practices with the interest of the global community upon whom its continued success ultimately depends.

Over thirty authors with diverse perspectives and experiences contribute to this twenty-four chapter volume. They come from academe, government, industry, health-advocacy organizations, and the scientific and medical communities. Together they offer a balanced consideration of and insightful debate about the ethical issues that dominate the contentious relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and global society.

A basic theme that emerges from the text is the misalignment of private profit-maximizing objectives with public health needs. The profitable success of the pharmaceutical industry is not always matched by their contributions to the common good. However, rather than focusing blame on the moral turpitude of a few industry executives, the strength of this volume is its focus on the systemic reasons underlying the separation of public from private goals in a market economy. It also offers a host of innovative strategies for closing the gap. Several authors, including those from industry, emphasize the need for cooperation among drug companies, governments, non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, medical and scientific communities, and international funding agencies in developing and delivering useful drugs. Indeed, one of the major points of the book is the need to build broad-based coalitions to solve medical problems, particularly those with social and transnational implications. To this end, several authors provide concrete examples about how diverse groups have come together and shared their insights, talents and resources in cooperative ventures in an effort to solve health problems on an international scale.

The volume consists of four sections organized around broadly...

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