In recent years, it has become an increasingly popular practice for drug companies to perform their clinical testing of new drugs in foreign countries that might not have the consumer protections or product liability laws present in the United States. Please answer each of the following questions using a theory studied in Module 2 specifically and thoroughly and using examples and facts from the readings and resources.
1. Are drug companies that test experimental drugs in foreign countries acting ethically?
Drug companies that test experimental drugs in foreign countries are not acting ethically. Testing of experimental drugs should be done in the host country where the drugs are being manufactured. A major ethical dilemma that is being looked at with this is that the foreign countries that these clinical trials are happening in are not fully educated on the risks or fully understand what they are getting themselves into. After reading the articles many things stood out that these countries may not know what they are signing up for. Anil Netto quoted in the article titled “Health-Asia: Ethics in Outsourcing Drug Trials Questioned,” that by doing these clinical trials in foreign countries, drug companies are “exploiting the healthy who are strapped for cash and the sick who seek cheap or free remedies.” In regards to the utilitarian theory, testing drugs in foreign countries would prove to be unethical. Utilitarianism more specifically act utilitarianism tells us that we should always do an action that generates the greatest happiness for whoever is affected by the act. In act utilitarianism one must consider all consequences of a singular action, and then act if and only if that action maximizes utility for all affected. This type of utilitarianism only has us answer one specific question which is “does this specific action maximize happiness or utility for all parties affected?” (Shaw & Barry, 2013, p.60) Although clinical trials may be useful in finding new drugs and could maximize happiness by doing so. In a way yes, clinical trials could help the medical world and patients, but are the consequences and side effects of these trials worth the risk? In the article stated above, Netto states although clinical trials are supposed to follow specific guidelines, but “these official guidelines are not binding and enforcement is lax.” This shows that some consequences are not being considered when being acted on. I think the utilitarian would question the idea of are these clinical trials worth potential harm to the people of the society.
2. is American industry at too much risk of lawsuits to remain competitive? Should companies trying to develop drugs be given immunity from lawsuits?
No, I do not believe that American industry is at too much risk of lawsuits to remain competitive. Lawsuits are going to present everywhere no matter what the circumstances are. American industry must accept the fact that what they are doing can cause some harm to people of the society and law suits are what is going to come out of it. I do not think though that these drug companies should have immunity from lawsuits. In the article titled “Supreme Courts Hears Case on Vaccine Lawsuits,” it details how because of some side effects that vaccines have caused certain complications after the vaccine was given. It states that these cases could “open the floodgates to thousands of lawsuits.” It is the drug companies' responsibility to create drugs that are not harmful to the society they are serving, and there should be legal implications if they do not. In regards to the utilitarian theory, these vaccines help to prevent disease, which would maximize happiness in a society. When something goes wrong and there is a dangerous side effect, the drug company should be liable for that. Like the utilitarian states, all consequences should be considered before acting on a decision. The drug companies have a responsibility to consider all options and side effects before deciding to administer any type of drug. The article also stated that in one case, “there was an alternate vaccine that was just as effective and posed fewer side effects, but the manufacturer did not make it available because it couldn't make as much money off it.” So, I believe that companies should be liable that case. They should have considered all the options and chose the safest one that would maximize happiness, not the one where they could make more money.
3. is it ethical for companies to decline to sell a useful drug because they can make more money marketing drugs that are more widely needed? Is it ethical for companies to decline to sell a useful drug in a foreign country because they can make more money marketing the drug elsewhere?
No, it is not ethical for drug companies to decline the sale of useful drugs because they can make more money marketing other drugs that are more widely needed. A drug that can be useful should ethically be available to a society regardless of the profits they could make with more widely needed drugs. Utilitarianism can apply to this also, in accordance to rule utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism still enforces the principle that actions are right if they produce maximum happiness and wrong if they do not, but in this form of utilitarianism, actions are not individualized, rather held to a moral code or rules set that will produce maximum happiness (Shaw & Barry, 2013, p.77). The moral code and guidelines would be for drug companies to allow the drugs that can be useful to people to be sold and distributed in the society. It would be wrong to not sell a useful drug because of the financial gains the company would receive. It is also unethical for companies to not sell a useful drug in foreign countries because they can make more money marketing elsewhere. Any drug should be available to all people of societies that it will help. It is a drug company's moral obligation to provide helpful drugs to all without influence from financial matters. Rawls states that any action that is taken should focus on providing the most benefit to the least advantaged persons of the society. So it would be imperative for companies to provide these drugs not only to the people who can afford it, but to the least advantage people of the society which would be the poor.
4. do companies have an ethical obligation to make drugs available in poor countries at little or no cost?
Many of these countries that these drugs are being tested in are very poor, so it becomes a matter of the ethics and morals of the company that is testing these products there. After a clinical trial has ended, it is most likely impossible for the people of the country to be able to afford these drugs that have most likely been helping them for the duration of the trial. I believe they do have an ethical obligation to make these drugs available to the people who are participating in these clinical trials and that they should take into consideration the price at which these people can afford these drugs. In regards to Rawls' theory, decisions are supposed to be made under a veil of ignorance. Under this veil, we do not know our societal roles, or other societal norms. It takes away bias because it does not give the person in the original position something to compare certain concepts. This would be a fair way in deciding whether it is ethical to supply these drugs to poorer nations at little or no cost. The people in the original position which would be the drug companies can then see the importance of the drugs to the people of this nation without the influence of finances (Shaw & Barry, 2013, p. 121). Rawls' principle of distributive justice also applies. He states that “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with similar system of liberty for all” (Shaw & Barry, 2013, p.122). He is stating that the people of society should have equal freedoms, no one having more or less than the other. This would mean that the poorer nations should not be punished because they cannot afford the drug, they should have equal rights to any other nation that can afford the drug. If it will benefit the society it should be made available to them.
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