In May 2004 Pfizer paid a $430 fine and pled guilty to criminal charges over the marketing by its subsidiary Warner-Lambert of a drug called Neurontin. The marketing strategy was to pay doctors tens of thousands of dollars each if they would agree to give talks to groups of other doctors, explaining that Neurontin, which had been approved for epilepsy, could be prescribed for several other (“off label”) uses. One of these physician/lecturers was paid more than $300,000; others, including some from prestigious medical schools, received more than $100,000 each. Neurontin became a top-selling drug, producing $2 billion in sales as doctors prescribed it for a range of maladies, including bipolar disorder and restless-leg syndrome.7 Such scandals seemed to flood the news in 2004, leading to a government crackdown on the marketing techniques of the pharmaceutical industry, with nearly every global drug company receiving subpoenas. What would an ethical analysis of these marketing strategies look like from a free market perspective? From the point of view of a utilitarian? A deontologist? A virtue ethicist? A proponent of the ethic of care?
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