The term ethics is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’ which means character. Ethics is the branch of the social science, which deal with concepts such as right and wrong, good and bad, fair and unfair, just and unjust, legal and illegal, moral and immoral, proper and improper in respect of human actions. It is a science of morality which guides the actions of individuals or groups. In short, ethics refers to code of conduct. The point to be noticed here is all actions should be directed towards achieving highest level of satisfaction and happiness with greatest number of people. (Pandey, 2002)

Is ethics merely learning what is right or wrong? Most of the time ethical quandaries in the workplace are not merely a issue of yes or no. Like the topic of this paper “Selling banned drugs overseas is unethical even if the drugs significantly benefitted the health of consumers in those markets”. That means even if there is no doubt about a pharmaceutical drugs still it is unethical to sell drugs in those markets where these are benefitting the peoples. We have to answer a question is there are always a right thing or ethics depend on situation? We may look at ethics to be the “Science of Conduct.” It includes the fundamental rules by which we live our lives. Some believer of ethics regard emerging ethical feelings to be judicial principles that is what becomes an ethical road map today is turned into a regulation. Moral values talks about how we should behave such as fairness, responsibility, respect, honesty, etc. On the other hand ethical principles are application of these values. (Pandey,2002)

Thomas M. Garett defines Business Ethics as “Business ethics is mainly concerned with relationship of business goals and techniques to specific human needs”. In other words there could be variety of individuals view on some decision criteria, however, the norms or patterns that are related to decision making criteria whether the decision is right or wrong is Ethics. So Ethics evolves the learning of good or bad, and also can be considered as a code of conduct. It is also the study of individuals and collective moral awareness, judgement, character and conduct. In order to understand the topic under the magnifying glass of Business Ethics, we need to know the Pharmaceutical Companies in USA and UK.

Major Pharmaceutical Companies:

As Acquisitions, Mergers are regular phenomena in Pharmaceutical world and only the major companies could bear the risk of this industry so this paper has drawn the picture of largest pharmaceutical companies in USA and UK. Most often the largest pharmaceutical companies are not diversified and very much concentrated on pharmaceutical products and most of the case 50% of their revenues come from these products. Among all the 15 big pharma companies Johnson and Johnson has less than 50% of sales coming from pharmaceutical products. It is noticeable that these big pharma are geographically concentrated in Europe and America. Geographical distribution of sales of GlaxoSmithKline in USA is 49%, in Europe is 30% and in Other places is 21%.

All countries have made certain drugs illegal to own. In some states of USA, carrying marijuana is a violation of rules again in some places owning it for private use is permissible by law. In the United States for example, Schedule I drugs are illicit. And it includes heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy but law varies from country to country. In some place heroin is used as pain medication like in The UK. In Europe rohypnol and flunitrazepam are legal medication but in the US, it is illegal. In Canada and USA, Temazepam is legalized where as in UK it is banned.

Ethically Right Or Wrong?

Some pharmaceutical drugs are banned through restrictive legislation and this is the common means of attempting to control the drug use. While certain drugs are legally sold, many countries regularize the marketing, distribution, manufacture and sale of some drugs perhaps through a system called prescription system. In some country certain drugs are banned with a prohibition called “blanket prohibition”. Nevertheless, the banned drugs still available through the illicit drug deal. Small portion of some quantity of certain drugs for personal use is allowed by certain countries, when still forbidding their sale in the marketplace, and buying in wholesale. The restrictive regulation of the drugs different in many countries because there are different of social values, morality, norms, cultures, religions in different regions. In some places, stipulated conditions are made for the use of traditional sacraments like, Peyote, Iboga, and Ayahuasca. In some places like Gabon, Africa, Tabernanthe iboga has been considered as a national treasure and is used in rituals of the Bwiti religion. Limitations on advertising also exist in many nations, and oftentimes a state holds a controls on marketing, manufacture, distribution, and the sale of these drugs. Some drugs are used by peoples for a number of different intentions. Certain contents may have insured or illicit uses while others might have shamanic intentions, and there are others who are using medicinally. For examples: Social drinking of Caffeine. It is the world’s most widely consumed mind altering psychoactive contents, but unlike others, it is licit and unstructured in almost all jurisdictions. Therefore, prohibition in one country does not necessarily means it should be banned in other countries of the world.

Argument For Unethical Of Selling Drugs

Law are approved, written and then imposed by the government. It means government laws go through a process to get sanctioned, then written, and then are enforced. So ethics are merely rules of conduct. For instance, pharmaceutical companies have oral ethical rules or exercises that they bind with because it’s the right thing to do for them. They have the obligation to attend their consumer to the best of their ability. The same way the doctor helps their patients, but it’s not a law but responsibility. The same way an electrician has responsibility to repair house-wiring, the way it should be so that it works correctly and they should make sure of the safety of the work. Ethics are not written down, they are oral rules of behaviour that people bind to.

A key difference between the law and the ethics is in terms of the approval which apply if these are breached. Breaking an ethical code means that person will face disapproval from peers, or corrective proceedings from a professional body etc. Now breaking the law means, a court appearance, facing police investigation, various penalties like a imprisonment. The might lose their job.

Now US and British govt spend huge amount of money on research and development so banning any product in those developed country indicates that it will ultimately harm the human life. It takes a long time for both research and development of any drugs and also to enact law and enforce it in a country. Most of the cases these drugs are going to developing nations in the world (because big market and depreciated currency values) which are not developed enough to find the problems with the drugs. Moreover there are side effects in addition to benefiting the health of those marketplace.

The subject of any banned product in developed nation is surely under the acknowledgement of the regulatory department of developing nations. It takes time to enforce and enact any law for banning any pharmaceutical drugs. So ethically they should not market their products, those that are already banned in UK and USA whether it is banned in other marketplace or not. Moreover, some drugs such as cannabis act as entrances to use of harder drugs such as heroin, because of social contact and because of an altering search for a better high.

Arguments Against Unethical Of Selling The Drugs:

Importance Of Ethics:

I. Social Responsibility:

Business ethics is a means of making business socially responsible for its actions. Exploitation of consumers, employees, discriminate use of natural resources, etc; is quite common in all types of business. Compliance to ethical standards will ensure

(a) protection of consumer rights,

(b) public accountability,

(c) protection of worker’s interests, and

(d) proper utilization of natural resources.

The real story of the world is little bit different. Factories across the developing world are desperate to begin making their possess cheaper pharmaceutical drugs like Tamiflu to defend their population however, they are being sternly told not to by the World Health Organization although it could cull hundreds of thousands of people if swine flu spreads. There exist a very strange system for developing pharmaceutical drugs. Almost all the works are carried out by scientists to get the drugs to the pharmaceutical companies and sometimes it is carried out by research based big pharmaceutical companies. Sometimes it is done in government financed university labs, contributed by the citizen’s taxes. Generic drug companies always come at the end of the process and pay the valuable, yet for the most part un-creative last stages, that is buying chemicals that are needed. Thus they get the exclusive rights to manufacture and profit from the ensuing medicine for years that is after that nobody else can make it. The outcome is that drug companies who owns the patent for certain drugs go to court to stop producing generic copies of it. Most of these research based big pharmaceutical companies are in USA and UK. As a result, there is not enough good quality pharmaceutical companies in other part of the world which could cater to the need of the pharmaceutical drugs. Now if it is banned in USA and UK by the legislator on the basis of social values, religious issues, morality, and because of the irresponsible use of drugs by their citizen, it should not be restricted for selling in other part of the world where the same drugs are benefitted to the health of that citizen.

II. Protection Of Consumer Rights:

Consumer is the centre of all business activities. In fact, business is essentially meant for satisfaction of consumer wants. Unfortunately, consumers are the most neglected and exploited group in pharmaceutical industry. The application of business ethics will help to confer and implement consumer rights of getting their desired drugs. Business ethics can be used to check malpractices like crime, unfair trade practices and to make the working of business consumer oriented. There are some other points on favour of selling drugs are: Drug money has been called a major root of income for terrorist. If government approve the medication that is benefitted to the people then this source of support for terrorism will reduce, distribution of such drugs in the black market will reduce and this will ultimately stop smuggling profitable.

III. Concept Of Socialism:

The concept of socialism in business states that gains of a business must be shared by all and just by the owner of business. The development of the pharmaceutical products go through many years of hard work, extensive R&D costs, if it is then benefitted to the people’s health then it should be ethical to sell this item to them.

IV. Interest Of Industry:

Small scale units can establish their position and fight for their rights if the industry follows a code of ethics. Patent should be given to the small scale firm so that they can sell their products to the places where it is demanded.

V. Consumer Movement:

The spread of education and awareness among consumers about their rights has made the business community to conduct business on ethical principles.

VI. Better Relations With The Society:

Business ethics is needed to develop good relations between business and society. Business ethics will help to promote and protect the interest to various groups.

VII. Buyer’s Market:

There has been a structural change in the concept of business. The concept of profit has been gradually taken over by consumer satisfaction. The large scale production and increased competition in the market has changed the business scene from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. In a changed situation, business ethics is needed to redefine the traditional concept of profit and replace it by a balance between profit and consumer satisfaction.

Viii. Beneficial To Business And Society:

Ethics suggests what is good and bad, right and wrong, ethical and unethical, etc; to businessmen. It also brings an element of honesty, sincerity, fairness, and human touch to business activities. Society is also benefited by the introduction of business ethics. It ensures healthy and competitive business atmosphere, consumer and labor welfare, and improvement in social, economic and cultural values of the society.

  1. In ICM poll it is found out that illegality of drugs actually encourages young people to try them. Some people get access to illegal drug by their prescription. In some countries like Portugal and Spain it is not illegal to own drugs. (Source: “Public opinion on drugs and drug policy”-Transform Drug Policy Foundation)
  2. Because of illegal drugs fewer health dangers occurs than some legal drugs (e. g. alcohol and tobacco). Every year 40 people die because of ecstasy, 6500 deaths because of alcohol and 120,000 deaths because of smoking (Sources: McGrath, Matt (July 1997), Medical Uses of Illicit Drugs, as a brainbooster of parkinson’s)
  3. Legitimate medical use of illegal drugs: such as use of Ecstasy for Parkinson’s Disease.
  4. Although increasing amounts of money being exhausted on forbiddance, drugs have become more cheaper, accessible, and stronger. Rather than banning, Government can impose higher taxes on those items that are restricted and manufactured in UK and USA and with the revenue government can educate the victims or distributing free needles.
  5. Government can divert their cost of banning by creating a safer substitute to pharmaceutical drugs with many of the same desired effects adding many health and benefits to society.
  6. Students are getting interested in making fast money through illegal pharmaceutical drug trade. Lured by drug dealers, students are no longer interested in legitimate jobs.
  7. When the cost of drugs increases due to restriction by the government, drugs taker are more likely to commit crimes in order to get money to purchase the expensive drugs.
  8. According to ethics a person should be able to do whatever they want with his or her body, as long as they do not damage others. Therefore there should be personal freedom to use drugs.
  9. There are certain costs in regard to banning certain pharmaceutical item like direct prohibition enforcement expenditures, other costs which includes holding prisoners of violations. On the contrary, Government can earn huge tax profit out of this pharmaceutical products.
  10. The arguments for not ethical are based on perceptual experience of drugs as life threatening to people, which produces the foundation for a moral confrontation to drug use. Some of these perceptual-experiences are based on scientific grounds, pointing how some drugs are damaging to individuals, yet there are other perceptions which are based on myths. The confronting debate would be when drugs are harming to people, it is easier to check their use and denigrate damage if drugs are licit. (Sources: The Natural Mind—An Investigation of Drugs and the Higher Consciousness)
  11. Sometimes drugs are used as spiritual and religious purpose which is ethical in any respect.
  12. Some pharmaceutical drugs may be prohibited in UK or USA due to political reason. There should be consistency in drugs in regard to prohibition as in the rationality of prohibition of similar kind of drugs in those places.
  13. As drugs drastically vary in their consequences, doses, consumption and production so there should be different policy for distinct drugs.

There are always some complex ethical dilemmas. The following tools can be used in such circumstances

1. Feedback

2. Listening

3. Questioning

4. Conflict (interpersonal)

5. Negotiating

6. Valuing Diversity

Following are some techniques to tackle the drugs that could potentially affect the human health:

  • Interrupting the market for drugs by inclusion of higher tax rate for those pharmaceutical drugs.
  • As we know that prevention is better than cure. So there should exist prevention efforts to educate the populace on the potential dangers of drug-use by community activism, public information campaigns. It can be done by shifting the tax to social causes.
  • Profitable business of black market can be diverted to country’s revenue through law-enforcement efforts by eliminating of the supply chain.
  • If banned products are coming from USA and UK to developing countries in the world then developing countries could get the benefit of discount prices of those products with the same quality.
  • It also points out that forbiddance has come with an broad social cost, particularly to the nations that take part in the production of illegal drugs.


Unless it is not legally restrictive by the countries authority, if the pharmaceutical drug is responsibly been taken by some other countries because of the uses of Anesthesia, Pain control, Psychiatric medication, Recreational, Ritual and spiritual, and for Military purpose then it is totally ethical.


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