Pharmaceutical Company: Ethical Dilemma


A moral issue has emerged as to whether a pharmaceutical company has to release a new drug or not. This drug is thought to be an effective treatment of chronic and severe depression for thousands of people suffering from the condition. However, the company is confronted with a dilemma on whether to release the drug to the market or not. The hesitation on the release of the drug is on grounds that the new drug side effects have the potential of worsening the depression level of patients and thereby leading to death. This effect is thought to cause increased depression to 1 per cent of the population.

Possible options

The company has an option of releasing the drug into the market. This is aimed to offer successful treatment to chronic and severe depression that has debilitated people and affected the performance of individuals. Under this option, the company can decide to weigh the advantages of introducing the drug against the disadvantages. Since the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, the company can go ahead and introduce the drug in the market.

The company can also explore an option of introducing the drug in the market and swiftly embark on intensive research to develop a suppressant drug to the side effects. This option is ideal since the original drug can still be sold accompanied with another drug that significantly suppresses the side effects of the drug. The third option is for the company to delay the release of the drug on the moral issue grounds. The company can then embark on research on how best to reduce the side effects. This option will need additional investment in research to produce a drug that has the same effectiveness with minimal side effects.

Ethical theories decisions

According to the deontology theory, when individuals analyze a decision dilemma, they observe their responsibilities and duties. In this regard, it means that individuals or organizations should adhere to their commitments and duties to the society. This can be seen as a way of safeguarding one’s obligations that are regarded as morally correct. The pharmaceutical company has a duty and obligation to research and produce drugs for the population as treatment for various illnesses. Basing on this theory, the company may opt to release the drug into the market on grounds of its obligation to provide drugs for the populations. The decision to release the drug into the market is justified by the company. In this case, the company will be seen as adhering to its duty towards the society.

Virtue ethics, as postulated by Aristotle, emphasizes on the expressing of good character, which is moral virtues. Virtue ethics theory does not emphasize rules, consequences, and acts taken by a person. The theory focuses on character traits in dealing with moral issues within the society, and gives extreme flexibility on moral particularism.

From a medical point of view, a virtuous physician possesses practical wisdom to perform certain actions to alleviate an ill from suffering individuals (Robertson and Walter, p. 208). Based on the argument by Robertson and Walter, it is likely that the company is going to consider the second option. In this case, the company is going to release the drug into the market. Meanwhile, the company should initiate extensive research aimed at alleviating the side effects of the drug. The decision is made in view of alleviating suffering of humans from depression illness.

Consequentialism theory focuses on the rightness or wrongness of the result of an action pursued by a business or an individual (Jonsson, p. 25). The theory ignores the intrinsic qualities of the action, as the case with the virtue ethics theory. Consequentialism involves calculation of important consequences of an action being taken by a business. It bases attention on the cumulative impacts of actions and concerns itself with the future results of the actions, as opposed to immediate results of actions (Ivanhoe, p. 55). In this respect, the company is likely to focus on the last option, which is to delay the release of the drug into the market pending further research on how to minimize the side effects of the new drugs. In this case, the company will be focusing on the future positive outcomes of alleviating suffering of depressed population permanently.

Rights based theory is almost similar to deontology theory since it also recognizes the rights and duties associated with a certain act. The theory may seek to pursue a short-term outcome, as opposed to consequentialism’s focus that limits personal freedom. Under this theory, the company is likely to go ahead and pursue the release of the drug while working on how to eliminate the side effects.


It should be acknowledged that many people are suffering from chronic and severe depression. Furthermore, it is worthy recognizing that the company has intensively invested in the development of the drug. The best guide for the management of the company in the decision-making process is to consider releasing the drug into the market. However, this should be accompanied with caution to the population on the side effects associated with the use of the drug. This will enable people to make a choice on purchasing the drug or not. This will exonerate the company from any wrongdoing due to the side effects associated with the drug. The company will also have an opportunity to recover investment made in the development of the drug.

Works Cited

Ivanhoe, Philip J. “Character consequentialism: An early Confucian contribution to contemporary ethical theory.” Journal of Religious Ethics, 19.1 (1991): 55. Print.

Jonsson, Petur O. “On utilitarianism vs. virtue ethics as foundations of economic choice theory.” Humanomics, 27.1 (2011): 24-40. Print.

Robertson, Michael & Garry Walter. “Overview of psychiatric ethics II: virtue ethics and the ethics of care.” Australasian Psychiatry, 15.3 (2007): 207-211. Print.

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