William Campbell, a researcher and drug specialist employed by the Merck Company came across the idea that among the veterinary products that the company manufactured would be a possible remedy for river blindness. River blindness was an infection that affected the Third World and killed many people. The victims were too poor to purchase drugs and conducting more research in an attempt to seek the appropriate medication was becoming too expensive. The disease affected the poor in Africa and South America since a parasitic worm caused it. The worm hides beneath the skin and breeds there. The condition pushes some people to commit suicide due to the extreme itching that accompanies the growth of this parasite. Dr. William Campbell found himself in an ethical dilemma and recommended that the veterinary medicine could be looked into if there were the possibility of it being able to treat River Blindness.
The development of a new form through the formation of a new compound which would be suitable for human consumption required the approval of an entirely new drug. The entire process would cost more than $100 million (Arnold, 2014). If such an amount of money were invested in this groundbreaking research, Merck and company would not be able to incur the costs spent on research and also obtain more profits. Poverty characterized the regions where the infection flourished, and the investment would not return any profit. There were also improper distribution networks which would help in the distribution of the drug in areas where it was most needed. There were also possibilities of the black market developing, producing and distributing a counterfeit version of the drug in the tropics. The situation would undermine Merck's sales of Ivermectin for animals (Arnold, 2014). The production of this new drug would, therefore, damage the company's potential market in veterinary products.
On the other hand, the company is in a dilemma since it has the potential of producing a drug which could save millions of lives. The drug could also improve the living conditions of many generations to come. Dr. Ray Vagelos OR Merk and Co. do not have a responsibility to pursue R & D version of Ivermectin, the drug to combat river blindness.
On their website, Merck listed some values that it works towards. Among these values includes the business working towards conserving and improving human life. The company also works towards enhancing animal wellbeing. Their success in the achievement of the above goals is the parameter for measuring their actions. The company values their capacity to aid every individual who can benefit from the suitable use of their merchandises and services, to provide a enduring customer contentment. The river blindness case was a colossal task to test the corporate character of this company since it is always straightforward to talk about ethics and charity. It is a test of organizational success which brings profit to the company vs. corporate philosophy which is all about ethical values and moral responsibility to others.
According to Bowie (2015), cultural relativism is a theory which is directly linked to ethics and human rights. It encompasses what human rights should be based on the western and non-western perspective. Cultural relativism theory states that an individual cannot judge the cultural practices of other societies and that people should be left to do what pleases them (Bowie, 2015). It means that any decision is either right or wrong depending on the side taken at that moment. In the United States, there is no real ethical baseline which guides human actions. Absolute truth does not exist in the world. There is nothing like "the truth," but "a truth" exists. In this way, Merck Company and Dr. Ray Vagelos can decide to cut research on Invermectin and order its researchers not to discuss the issue. These people can as well sit back and watch other humans suffer without giving it a second thought. It is the right decision based on the business culture and philosophy which this drug company operates.
Many individuals depend on the Merck Company to survive. These are the employees of this company, and they could only be paid if the company makes a profit. It is the goal of any business to minimize their costs and maximize their profits (Bowie, 2015). If the company loses money, there are possibilities of layoffs which will force people to live in poverty. The company has devoted some of its programs to charity through corporate social responsibility. For instance, the company has managed to donate more than 2.5 billion tablets in more than 30 countries across the world. The company having a strong moral and ethical foundation makes it easy to make appropriate decisions when faced with easy choices which fall into the ethical gray area.
Also, the company was operating legally. The moral questions are concerning the impact of their decisions. In as much as they seek for the cure of river blindness was not a profitable project, the motivation of action would be guided by the company's established values and their sense of corporate responsibility which are essential to them.
In conclusion, either of the position that the company will take will be right or wrong based on the outcomes and the courses of action which are guided by the intentions of their leadership. The company, therefore, should make decisions based on their core corporate values about ethical decision making. The river blindness issue is not just about looking good in the eyes of the public but all about being true to the core values of the company.
Arnold, D. G. (2014). Ethical theory and business. T. L. Beauchamp, & N. E. Bowie (Eds.). Pearson.
Bowie, N. E. (2015). Relativism, cultural and moral. Wiley Encyclopedia of Management, 1-4.
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