An Introduction to Business Ethics

Here’s an article I wrote back in July. Before a decision was made whether or not to post it, the FDA advisory panel (a group of scientists) recommended by a split vote that Avandia be left on the market, pending a decision by the head of the FDA, which should be forthcoming. When her decision is made, I will write a follow-up.
How often have we read or watched media stories about greedy trial lawyers filing spurious class action lawsuits against big tobacco and other giants of American industry? And don’t we sometimes enjoy it immensely when we hear that some jury somewhere stiffed the dying-of-cancer plaintiff with a verdict in favor of the huge corporate defendant? After all, the person harmed should have known better than to have been suckered by the massive advertising campaign touting the safety of a deadly product.
Just when people felt they had reached a comfortable level of complacency on this issue, along comes SmithKline Beechman. Documents recently obtained by the New York Times allegedly show that SmithKline (now known as GlaxoSmithKline) actively hid from regulators and the public the fact that Avandia, a SmithKline diabetes drug known as rosiglitazone, was riskier to the heart than Actos, a competing drug manufactured by Takeda.
In 1999, SmithKline completed a secret study comparing the heart risk of the two drugs. The results clearly showed that Avandia was not safer and in fact may actually cause heart attacks. Researchers began discovering Avandia’s risk in 2007. Shortly thereafter, SmithKline admitted that it had known of the heart attack risk at least since 2005.
Instead of reporting their findings to drug regulators as they should have done, SmithKline apparently suppressed the results for eleven years. A recently-discovered 2001 email discloses that a SmithKline executive wrote that the study “was done for the U.S. business, way under the radar. Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK.” A GSK spokesperson recently said the study’s results were not disclosed because they “did not contribute any significant new information.”
Do you get the picture now?

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