Pharma Ethics Roundtable - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Pharma Ethics Roundtable

Pharmaceutical Executive


That first car had no air conditioning, radio, CD, or air bags. So what you're dealing with is the public's unwillingness to come to terms with what's actually going on and a larger social irresponsibility in not making the public aware of what all these advances have contributed. Some-body, sooner or later, is going to have explain to the public exactly what's going on. If no one is going to take up that challenge, then the pharmaceutical industry ought to. If it doesn't, it's going to be one of the biggest losers.


Louis says there often are big differences between doing what's legal and what's ethical.
CLINTON: Everyone at this table, I trust, believes the pharmaceutical industry—for all its faults and problems—does a more effective job of discovering life-saving and life-enhancing treatments than anything likely to be put in its place. Is there an ethical dimension to defending the industry and making sure pharma and the companies within it survive and continue to do their work?

CAPALDI: I think you just said it. The ultimate ethical goal of the pharmaceutical industry is to enhance health and save as many lives as possible in the long run. The way in which that's done is through a market economy, and there is no alternative to doing that. Ethics has three parts. The goal is to save lives and to enhance health to the maximum extent possible, and the way that you do that is through incentives and the market system. The third piece is that you have minimal government regulation. I don't see any reason for being ashamed of that.

SODEN: We tied our "doing good" too much to the market economy, though. Would stockholders in a pharmaceutical company say, "Doing good is giving me my average 15 percent return," or would they say, "I'm willing to take 5 percent to do good for the rest of the world?"

CAPALDI: That's easy. If I have a choice between a 5 percent return and a 15 percent return, I'm going to go for 15 percent. If your intent is to do good by lowering the value to shareholders, you will soon find it impossible to raise money to do the kind of research that is necessary. Charity doesn't solve the problem.


Cohen asks what company policies ensure that ethical decisions are made throughout the organization.
PEREA-HENZE: That depends on how you define charity. I think more and more investors are looking at social responsibility factors. So if we believe there are different ways to get medicines to people—whether through programs that give bulk prices or philanthropic programs that fund new models—and if you have the traditional insurance-reimbursed medicine programs, you build a continuum. You can still maintain your profit and expand your reach.

CAPALDI: Differential pricing is a good capitalist principle. I sell for less in markets where the market price is necessarily going to be lower. Doing that enables poor people to get things that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get. But once you start to allow the reimportation of drugs, one of the things you're going to do is to force companies to have one set price for the world.

If you call it charity, instead of good business, someone is going to figure out that you are making more money by doing it this way and will say, "Aha, the ethics is a scam." I would go on the offensive and say, "This is the best way to help people. I don't have to defend that. You have to show me that there's an alternative way." And every time they suggest an alternative, you shoot it down rather than play into their hands or apologize.


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