Ethics in academia and the pharmaceutical industry
[Note: The slide presentation is not available from this event.] Many academics in medicine assume that they hold a higher ethical standard than the pharmaceutical industry. Some of this assumption has to do with the presumed not-for-profit nature of academia and the for-profit nature of the pharmaceutical industry. In this discussion, based on my personal experience in both settings, I will contrast and compare the ethical standards of the two groups. I will conclude that they are both ethically challenged with different drawbacks. In academia, the usual ethical problem is an excessive focus on power and prestige; in the pharmaceutical industry, as is well known, the ethical problem is the profit motive. Both are highly problematic, with different causes producing the same effects: the interests of the public are sacrificed for the desires of academics and the pharmaceutical industry. Different strengths also exist: Academic freedom of thought allows for free public expression of ideas, but, combined with tenure and the wish for inclusion in the status quo power structure, it leads to self-censorship and a conservatism of thinking. Academic life begins with freethinking and ends in group think. The pharmaceutical industry is much more open to new ideas because it is not attached to any idea; its main test is practical utility in the marketplace. Hence, it is, paradoxically, much more innovative than academia, but this innovation is only tied to commercial results. Many public health needs are ignored due to non-commercial potential.