Beware of pharmaceutical companies bearing cheap drugs

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The Global BioEthics Blog is written by Stuart Rennie, Co-Principal Investigator, NIH/Fogarty bioethics grants in DR Congo and South Africa; ethics consultant UNC-Gap projects in DR Congo and Madagascar; Associate Professor in UNC Department of Social Medicine, Core Faculty in UNC Bioethics Center.

Pharmaceutical companies are for-profit enterprises that make their money by selling medicinal drugs. This might seem stupefyingly obvious, but it can get (briefly) obscured when these companies distribute shiny pamphlets suggesting that the promotion of human well-being is their ultimate mission or when they act in seemingly philanthropic ways. Scratch the surface, or just wait until the smoke clears, and the profit motive comes back into view. This is partly why bioethics workers find pharmaceutical companies fascinating and appalling: sometimes they offer a glimpse of what it would be like if powerful multinationals really threw their weight behind public health goals, but only a glimpse, because they inevitably veer off to make money and please their stockholders, sometimes in ways at odds with the ethics of research and health care. They are a kind of ethical rogue element.

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Beware of pharmaceutical companies bearing cheap drugs