Short-term cures without heed to ethics have long-term side effects

Outlook Ethics professors in the world's business schools traditionally play second fiddle to the harder-nosed management science wonks. Somewhere down among the blackboard wipers in the academic pecking order.

But surely these unsung heroes deserve to be promoted this week, given how the pharmaceuticals industry has thrown up such wonderful examples of the damage short-term profit-think does when ethics and social considerations are left behind.

The cudgelling Pfizer has had from scientists, MPs and the media over its bid for AstraZeneca has been almost entirely based on its ruthless cost-cutting, plant closures and reductions in R&D spend. Suddenly, the company's closure of its plant in Sandwich doesn't look so clever. It may have saved a few million dollars – but if the political row it has now created proves fatal for the Astra bid, how many billions of dollars of US tax avoidance will it cost Pfizer in the long term? On a personal level, if he fails to pull off this deal, it could even cost Ian Read his job.

Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline's quick-buck enthusiasm for grabbing a share of China has returned to bite it where it hurts, too. We will have to see how Mark Reilly, GSK's former China head, fares through the country's legal system – he may well, of course, be innocent of all wrongdoing.

But serious financial damage by the scandal has already been done. GSK, which has admitted some senior members of staff have broken the law in China, has lost millions. Revenues from China in the third quarter of last year alone were down 61 per cent as doctors opted to prescribe rival manufacturers' versions of its medicines.

And that's before we even begin to count the legal costs. China's new charges are bound to attract the renewed attention of those tenacious upholders of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, let alone our own – albeit less fearsome – Serious Fraud Office. Fighting these organisations takes a lot of lawyers.

GSK has faced such ethical scrutiny before, of course, paying $3bn (£1.8bn) in fines in the US a couple of years back for, among other serious ethical transgressions, bribing doctors to prescribe its drugs and promoting its antidepressants for use on children and adolescents.

The fines and lost revenues from ethical breaches can be counted in dollars and cents. But the loss of long-term goodwill among potentially important communities – Britain's scientists, in Pfizer's case – can prove even more costly.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world