Moral Reasoning Assignment Essay Example

Moral Reasoning Assignment

Section A
1. What are the main ethical issues raised by GlaxoSmithKline’s decision to promote and market drugs for unapproved uses? Do you think that such practices are morally permissible or unethical? Provide detailed reasons to support your conclusions.

GlaxoSmithKline promoted and marketed Advair, a drug used to treat asthma, and two other drugs for unapproved uses (BBC 2012). The company also marketed and promoted the use of a range of its antidepressant drugs for unapproved uses, one of them being their use among children and adolescents (BBC 2012). There are two main ethical issues that arise from the situation. The first one is the morality of the action by the company. By promoting the use of the drugs for unapproved uses, the company sought to increase its sales and profitability. This is one of the main responsibilities of business organisations. The second issue is the need to adhere to the laws that have been established. Since the law requires that drugs be used for approved purposes only, the act of the company was against the established law.

2. Do you think it was morally acceptable for GlaxoSmithKline not to release relevant research data and to make unsupported safety claims for one of its diabetes drugs?
Is there a moral difference between merely failing to provide relevant information and actively making false claims about the safety of a drug? Why/Why not?

It was not morally acceptable for GlaxoSmithKline to withhold relevant research data and to make unsupported claims about the safety of one of its diabetes drugs. As a pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline is obliged to reveal all information about the safety of its drugs. By failing to do so and going ahead to provide unjustified claims about the safety of some of its drugs, the company failed to observe the ethical principle of truthfulness. This is because there is no difference between providing misleading information and withholding vital information in this case. Either way, the company violated the ethical principle of truthfulness. In doing so, it put at risk the lives of individuals who use the specific drugs about which it failed to provide safety data

3. GSK’s activities were found to be illegal. Would it make a difference to your assessment of the case if such activities were not against the law? Why/Why not?

There would not be a difference if the activity of a pharmaceutical company withholding data about the safety of its products were not against the law. This is because there is a difference between morality and law when interpreting ethics (Fernando 2009, p. 29). What this means is that an action can be unlawful but morally right. As well, an action can be morally wrong but still be legal. Essentially, GlaxoSmithKline, as a pharmaceutical company, is obliged to tell the truth about the safety of its products. Not only is it a requirement of the law by the Food and Drug Administration, but also a moral obligation for the company, to provide accurate information about the safety of its drugs to the general public.

Section B

4. Do large food and beverage companies have any moral obligation or responsibility to consider the consequences for public health of marketing and distributing certain kinds of food and drink products? Why/Why not? Answer this question using examples from the documentary to support your conclusions.

Yes, large food and beverage companies have a moral obligation and responsibility to consider the consequences for public health of marketing and distributing certain kinds of food and drink products. This is because of application of the ethical principle of consequentialism. Basically, consequentialism holds that the ethical value of an action is seen in its consequences (Burgh 2006, p. 17). Therefore, large food and drink companies should consider the consequences of marketing and distributing various types of food and drink products to the public. For instance, Coca-Cola should consider the consequences of its marketing campaigns in Mexico. This is because increased consumption of some of the products of Coca-Cola is one of the causes of obesity among the Mexican population (ABC 2012).

5. The program describes a range of marketing techniques used by food and beverage companies in different countries: the marketing of soft drinks to schools in Mexico; the door to door selling of snack foods fortified with micronutrients and marketed to low income families in Brazil; a snack food boat that visits small villages along the Amazon to promote and sell food and drinks. Do you find any of these marketing techniques morally problematic? Explain in each case, why or why not.

There is a wide variation to the answer of whether the marketing communication tactics that are used by food and beverage companies are ethical or not (Williams & Drumwright 2012, p. 2). This is so since the interpretation by marketers varies greatly from that of advocates of public health. Some of the issues about marketing communication by food and beverage companies include marketing to children, presenting information that has been twisted to mislead the public and lack of concern about the health problems that arise from their products (Okolowski 2015, p. 2). These issues are applicable to the cases provided. Marketing Coca-Cola products to schools in Mexico amounts to advertising to children. Door-to-door selling of snack foods that have been fortified with nutrients among the poor in Brazil amounts to providing misleading information to customers.

Section C

6. Compare your responses to the two cases. Do you apply the same principles and standards of conduct to pharmaceutical companies as you do to food and beverage companies? What are the morally relevant differences/similarities between the two cases?

Yes, I apply the same principles to the two cases. This is because the two cases are similar to each other in several ways. For instance, in both cases, there is the contradiction between morality and law. On one hand, the activities of the two companies can be justified as being perfectly legal. However, when interpreted using ethical principles, the actions are found to be unethical. On the other hand, completely illegal activities by the companies are actually morally right. The second similarity arises from the nature of the issues that affect both companies. In both cases, the main issue is that the actions of the companies have far-reaching consequences to individuals. It is based on the consequences that the rightfulness or wrongness of the actions is determined.


ABC 2012, Globesity, fat’s new frontier, viewed 20 October 2015, <>.

BBC 2012, GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3bn in US drug fraud scandal, viewed 20 October 2015, <>.

Burgh, G 2006, Ethics and the community of inquiry: education for deliberative democracy, Cengage Learning Australia, Sydney.

Fernando, AC 2009, Business ethics: an Indian perspective, Pearson Education India, New Delhi.

Okolowski, J 2015, The ethics of food advertising, viewed 20 October 2015, <>.

Williams, JD & Drumwright, ME 2012, Ethical and responsible food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents, viewed 20 October 2015, <>.