|Type of paper:||Case study|
|Categories:||Company Law Pharmacology Ethical dilemma|
Mr. Lu was arrested by the law enforcement officers and is to be prosecuted by the procuratorate on behalf of the Chinese government for importing cancer drugs that were not approved by the regulatory authorities. However, Mr. Lu did not import the drugs for profit purposes, he procured them on behalf of many cancer patients who could not access the locally available drug (Gleevec) because it was so expensive that they would not afford. Mr. Lu's case presents an ethical problem. Whether Mr. Lu should be charged and punished for importing cancer drugs without being approved by regulatory authorities when he was, in fact, helping many who had to suffer and die because of lack of access to the drug is an ethical problem that needs to be addressed. Some ethical theories such as the utilitarianism state that one is right to minimize suffering and maximize happiness, but such a position would be in conflict with sharp contrast with deontological ethics that argue the morality of action should be assessed under a series of rules rather than the consequences of the action (De Colle & Werhane, 2008). The paper analyses the ethical problems that exist from the perspective of Mr. Lu, law enforcement departments and procuratorate, Novartis pharmaceutical, Indian pharmaceutical companies, and other patients as well as determining whether Mr. Lu should be convicted or not and what improvements government should make to avert similar scenarios in future.
The Ethical Problem From Mr. Lu's Perspective
Mr. Lu, being a cancer patient suffering from chronic myeloid leukemia, is undergoing the pain of the disease as well as the pain of not accessing the pain-relieving drugs at affordable price. However, he discovers that the drug he and many other patients needed could be obtained from Indian pharmaceuticals at an affordable price both for him and the other patients. He is confronted with the ethical dilemma of deciding whether to import the drug and save many lives or follow the Chinese Drug Administration Law that prohibits importation and sale of unapproved drugs.
According to utilitarianists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it promotes suffering. Utilitarianists argue that the morality of action should be based on its consequences, and those that encourage happiness and minimize suffering are the ethical decisions to be taken (De Colle & Werhane, 2008). From this perspective, Mr. Lu's actions can be considered right because they, in the end, saved lives of the many cancer patients helping them alleviate pain and bring happiness to them and their families as they lived longer. Therefore, from a utilitarian perspective, Mr. Lu would be encouraged to continue doing the right action of helping other patients access the drug and alleviate suffering while promoting happiness.
Law Enforcement Departments and ProcuratorateThe law enforcement officers were on duty to ensure that every citizen complies with the law and obeys existing regulations when performing any action. They have found Mr. Lu on the wrong because he was importing the drugs that had not been approved by the relevant regulatory authorities. Similarly, the procuratorate is in charge of prosecuting lawbreakers on behalf of the government. He is required to open a case file for Mr. Lu for disobeying the law by importing unapproved drugs. However, both law enforcement officers and procuratorate are human beings, and they are bound to view things from a humane perspective. As such, they are confronted with an ethical dilemma of deciding whether to charge him for disobeying the law or consider the fact that he was trying to save lives of patients who did not access the drug because of affordability issues.
According to deontological theory, the morality of action should be based on existing rules, and not the consequences of that action (De Colle & Werhane, 2008). Deontologists suppose that rules bind one to duty, and he or she has a duty to defend the rules. From this philosophical point of view, the law enforcement officers and procuratorate are assumed to be on duty to defend the Chinese Drug Administration Law, hence should presume Mr. Lu's action as wrong because it undermines the rules in place that prohibited the importation of unapproved drugs.
Norvatis pharmaceutical was the pioneer who discovered Gleevec, the anti-cancer drug. The intention of Norvatis in manufacturing the drug is to save thousands of lives lost due to the disease. However, there is a lot of investment that goes into drug development. In fact, it is estimated that a pharmaceutical company spends about $1 billion in research, extensive preclinical evaluations and clinical trials before a drug is approved for use by human beings (Chabner & Roberts Jr, 2007). Sometimes the drug is rejected after having spent that much in research and developing the drug, meaning that drug development is a costly and risky process for pharmaceuticals. It is for this reason that pharmaceutical companies are awarded patents for a certain period to ensure that they act like the monopoly distributing the drug until they raise the initial investment.
An ethical dilemma arises for such pharmaceuticals like Norvatis as to whether they should pay attention to patent protection and focus on making a profit by setting high drug prices which are often unaffordable to many patients who need it to survive. Nonetheless, the managers at Norvatis pharmaceutical are obligated to make profits and returns to shareholders' investments, and they should choose between whether to make profits or to assist cancer patients to access the drug at the expense of the shareholders' money.
Indian Pharmaceutical Companies
The Indian pharmaceutical companies were already manufacturing a generic form of the Gleevec drug. It is highly doubted whether Norvatis had allowed companies to manufacture the generic form because it appears that their patent rights were still active at that time. Usually, prices of a drug are so high when the patent rights are still active since no other company is allowed to manufacture a generic form of the drug. As a result, the company that developed the drug enjoys monopoly and sells at a price determined in their discretion.
The Indian pharmaceutical companies an ethical dilemma of whether to manufacture the generic form of the drug and save many patients who cannot access the original drug which is expensive or to act ethically and respect patent rights. This is a question of ethical corporate responsibility where a company is expected to respect laws and regulations. However, the ethical obligation may contrast with the company's role in ensuring access to the product. It is a question to the pharmaceutical managers as to whether they should watch patients suffer and even die because they cannot afford the original drug or they should breach the patent laws and help relieve patients of suffering by providing access to the affordable drug.
Apart from Mr. Lu, there were many other patients who were suffering from chronic myeloid leukemia and they experienced pain and suffering. Worse enough, these other patients did not afford the expensive Gleevec drug which was the only solution to their pain and suffering. The cumbersome procedures for purchasing drugs across borders even worsened their hopes of acquiring the drug from Indian pharmaceuticals that offered the generic form of the drug at affordable prices. Many of them died because of lack of access to affordable medicine.
An ethical problem that existed for the other patients was whether to choose to consume the imported drugs that were considered counterfeit by the Chinese government or to ensure their suffering and death. They had to choose between obeying the law and death. If they obeyed the existing laws on the use of unapproved imported drugs they acquired through Mr. Lu, they would equally be choosing not to access the drug and to continue suffering to death. On the other hand, if they chose to acquire the drug, they would be disobeying the law but would reduce pain, suffering and enhance the chances of living a little longer. A utilitarian would say that the other patients were right to choose to acquire the counterfeit drug and promote happiness while reducing pain rather than obey the law but continue suffering.
Should Mr. Lu be Convicted?
It is clear that Mr. Lu was acting in contravention of the Chinese Drug Administration Law. he was importing a drug that had not been approved by the regulatory authorities. Law enforcement and procuratorate had a duty to arrest and prosecute him. However, the decision to convict him should be given a second thought. Based on the utilitarian argument, many can agree that a moral action is one that eliminates suffering while encouraging happiness. Also, one can argue that human life comes before the law. Mr. Lu, although contravened the law, was acting in good faith to save human patients' lives who would die from cancer sickness because they would not afford the available drug. More so, Mr. Lu did not intend to make any profits indicating that he was just a Good Samaritan. Therefore, he should not be convicted.
Access to life-saving drugs, such as the cancer medicines, poses many ethical dilemmas to many people including the manufacturers, the government agencies, and the patients. The manufacturers experience an ethical dilemma in determining the prices that can lead to profit but may inhibit access to the drug by many poor patients. The government agencies such as the enforcement officers and prosecution experience an ethical dilemma of whether to charge those who break the law to acquire a life-saving drug. The patients also have to decide between enduring suffering and death and breaking the law to access the cancer drugs that are affordable. All the same, the government can undertake some improvements to prevent these dilemmas which often lead to patriotic citizens deciding to break the law for the sake of their lives. The government should streamline procedures for purchasing drugs across the borders so that it is not difficult to acquire life-saving drugs. This will reduce the cost of drugs. However, such a move would lead to another ethical problem in the future as it will be equal to promoting the importation of drugs from companies that are violating patent rights. The government should also support the pharmaceutical companies in research and development of the drugs to ensure that its resulting price is not too high. The governments can also initiate drug subsidy programs that allow poor patients to acquire it at affordable prices.
Chabner, B. A., & Roberts Jr, T. G. (2007). Setting fair prices for life-saving drugs. AMA Journal of Ethics, 9(1), 38-43. 10.1001/virtualmentor.2007.9.1.pfor1-0701.
De Colle, S., & Werhane, P. H. (2008). Moral motivation across ethical theories: what can we learn for designing corporate ethics programs?. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(4), 751-764. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9545-7
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