Morally right vs legally permissible

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KEY TAKEAWAY: There is a time, when in business, we must chose between what is legally permissible vs. what is morally right. This is becoming a bigger issue within the pharma industry and too often I believe pharma executives are making the wrong choice.

A large consulting company informs a pharma client that they can raise the price of their dog two or three times to “maximize profit” but doesn’t mention the political or social implications of implementing such a strategy. What do you think most pharma executives would chose?

In school, we are taught that a company is in business to make money and provide a great ROI to shareholders. But in our industry that idea is only partially valid. The drugs we develop and market pride benefits to patients and society and the prices we set determine who can, and can’t afford, our drugs.

I have attended business meetings where the focus was on sales and profits with no mention of whether patients could afford the drug. I have seen former sales people take over marketing roles and do everything in their power, some illegally, to increase sales of their drugs. They are morally bankrupt and the kind of people who are slowly killing the pharma industry.

Of course the “moral approach” starts at the CEO and is part of the company culture, but today, CEO’s who make tens of millions of dollars, usually only care about their compensation packages. Sure, you can walk into the lobby of Biogen and read a fancy, well designed, slogan about helping people and developing new drugs, but how do you reconcile that to a CEO who lays off 750 people and then vacations in the South of France?

We need more people who instinctively know that we have a moral responsibility to the public we serve and who can balance that responsibility with business needs. We need executives who can tell Wall Street analysts that developing drugs is a long term investment and that it’s not all about profit and loss. Until we have more of those people pharma is going to be more of a business and less about helping patients.


Originally published at on March 4, 2016.

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Marketing contrarian with over 15 years of developing leading edge and award winning digital marketing initiatives.

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