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Essay: Understanding CSR in the Pharmaceutical Industry: Moral Obligations and Examples of Positive Impact

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The pharmaceutical industries are different from other industries, Due to its nature of business that drugs can be remedies for life-threatening illnesses as it deals with the branch of chemical industry associated with the discovery, development and manufacturing of drugs and medications. The most important thing a pharmaceutical industry to posses is the sustainability and consistency in manufacturing. it has everyday challenges faced by the industry are identifying new drugs targets, attaining regularity and refining drug discovery processes. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in the pharmaceutical industry, there are many positive and negative aspects of the industry. On the first-hand, the absolute good pharmaceutical companies have done for the world in the development and distribution if lifesaving medicines. And also have witnessed unethical marketing practices and exorbitant price structures that render some life saving medications inaccessible for many people. This has developed a strong internal feeling that as an industry we can do a better job from a CSR standpoint .

Defining CSR and more specifically CSR in the pharmaceutical industry. First, let’s define CSR and how it came about in the business world and specifically in the pharmaceutical industry. CSR is different in the pharma world, as far as expectation and moral obligation is concerned. CSR in pharma is different than other industries and the public has quite different ideas about the moral necessity of pharma’s CSR obligation. The concept that medicine may be beyond a simple commodity has gained traction in business and public circles. Clearly, this is because medicine saves lives and is a necessity, not a want. Selling pharmaceuticals while discussing the moral requirements of providing access to medicine to those that cannot afford it. There is much debate as to whether any company truly has an obligation to anyone besides their shareholders.

Moral theories that relate to the necessity of having CSR programmes in the pharmaceutical industry. Using authors ranging from Powers and Faden to Pogge, theories of justice which tie into the pharmaceutical industries duty to have CSR programs. Moral necessity of distributing lifesaving medicines to those that cannot afford it from a distributive justice position. Basic justice and human rights include health according to United Nations, and although this is the responsibility of governments, pharmaceutical companies also have a role to play. Moral idea of beneficence and why companies also have obligation to research and develop medicines for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that may not drive profit like many drugs for Western disease states do.

CSR programs, in the pharmaceutical industry for example, “From before Pfizer trying to relieve trachoma in Asia to recent Merck distributing HIV treatment through Africa, various industry programs and their impact on the companies and the societies they serve. Giving examples of the CSR programs the industry is involved in will give the reader an understanding of the commitment pharmaceutical firms have to CSR. During this discussion we should also point out the importance of not only these companies giving to society from an access to medicine standpoint, but the importance of adhering to ethical business practices” . “Many pharmaceutical companies are living inconsistently, because they are having unethical marketing practices and unethical clinical trials, by thinking they can mitigate these negatives with positive CSR programs. Essentially, it is critical for pharmaceutical companies to adhere to legal and moral frameworks of business and use CSR programs as an additional benevolent practice in order to benefit all stakeholders. Using CSR programs as a cure for the negative publicity from immoral business practices is unethical .

Pharmaceutical industry should work on its social contract with society, if we see how current business models in the pharmaceutical industry, which are going to hurt populations in the developing world, we need to specify how excessively high-profit margins and patent protection for Western disease states motivate pharmaceutical companies to focus on drug resources in developed countries and forego the tropical diseases in lesser developed countries from an R&D standpoint. Structural economic realities will not change and even more morally imperative for pharmaceutical firms to broaden their current CSR initiatives in order to level the playing field for access to medicine in society .

CSR programs in the pharmaceutical industry, Although CSR programs are not cost effective in the long term there is a possibility of data to suggest that these programs can drive or get revenue. This business benefit may take forms ranging from reputation capital to decreased time for FDA product review to better access to emerging markets. Examples for this, when we consider the impact in business terms and relating it with the top pharmaceutical firms in the industry. Regardless of the different ways CSR can impact the pharmaceutical business in a positive manner, most pharmaceutical executives have embraced CSR programs and have actually dedicated CSR teams in place to develop, execute, and monitor these programs. by This the industry can look at the business benefit in addition to the social one.

CSR in the pharmaceutical industry seems to have gained complete traction. Third party companies are also measuring CSR programs to get impact on business and society. The pharmaceutical industry should stand on one platform of CSR measurement which will help the industry to reduce overlap in terms of CSR programs and may be able to concentrate on resources across various firms in order to get overall results better. For example, Assessment of Medicine Index comes out with a report every two years once, which outlines and then rates what are the top 20 pharmaceutical firms are doing internationally from a CSR perspective. Many firms do not realize they are working on the same neglected tropical diseases or in targeted regions they are trying to improve the same certain conditions. If companies worked together on non-proprietary CSR initiatives it could reduce redundancies and help solve complex health problems in an improved efficient way.

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