Merck's Case Ethical

1749 Words Mar 30th, 2009 7 Pages
Merck Case Study

October 14, 2008

Relevant Facts:

Merck was one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. • Merck was about to lose patent protection of two of its best selling drugs, which had been a significant part of their $2 billion annual sales. • Merck began putting millions of dollars into research (up to $1 billion) and within three years, Merck was able to discover four powerful medications. • Profits weren’t all that Merck cared about; Merck’s founder believed that “medicine is for people. It is not for the profits.” • He also believed that following the “medicine is for people” philosophy would lead to profits and had yet to fail.• River Blindness is caused by parasitic worms, which can be found in
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In application, people might view Merck’s duties in different ways. For example, one might argue that as a company Merck only has responsibilities to release effective and safe medications and to make a profit to stay in business. On the other hand, it could be argued that as a pharmaceutical company Merck has special obligations to follow leads (like ivermectin) because they may greatly benefit human beings or save lives despite being unprofitable.

Utilitarianism is relevant to the Merck Co. case in that it would have been important for Merck to predict whether researching the drug further, or playing it safe with other research, would produce the greatest benefit for the largest number of people. One side would argue that while river blindness patients are poor, treatment would be of great benefit to those infected (and their families/communities), so research is warranted. On the other hand, one might argue that it would be of equal or greater benefit to research medications for more common diseases where patients can afford medication. They may also argue that if the company went out of business as a result of ivermectin research that more people would be harmed from the loss of Merck’s other research and medications.

Also, the Rights theory is appropriate in this case, because one might argue that basic human rights are involved. Merck might be responsible to do research with ivermectin if it’s decided that some basic right is being broken.

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