The moral ethics of pharmaceutical companies have often been brought into the spotlight. While legal frameworks should prevent unethical practices, pharmaceutical companies often exploit loopholes preventing the distribution of complete information or research relating to drugs.

Like graphic design, pharmaceutical companies are not subject to a stringent code of ethics. There are comparable elements between the two disciplines.


Paxil first entered the market in 1992 by SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) and is prescribed for the treatment of major depression and other psychological pathologies (DrugWatch, 2013).

Since its introduction many have campaigned against Paxil, along with other SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), for increasing the risk of suicide in children, adolescents and young adults (Wooltorton, 2003).

In 2003 Paxil was banned in the UK and Ireland from being prescribed to under 18’s while the USA considered a similar move (Tracey, 2003).

In 2004 the FDA made it a requirement that all SSRIs carried a ‘black box label’ stating that the taking the drugs shows “increased risks of suicidal thinking and behaviour, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24 during initial treatment (generally the first one to two months)” (FDA, 2007).

It is stated that GSK “improperly concealed deficiencies” with regards to Paxil’s treatment in adolescents (BBC, 2005).

It is said GSK withheld the findings of studies relating to the effects on children and adolescents for twelve years and were facing criminal charges for this (Tracey 2003).

Recently lawsuits have been approved in British Columbia relating to the birth defects caused after use by pregnant mothers (The Canadian Press, 2012).

When considering the long and short term this drug had on adolescents, it is morally wrong of GSK to withhold the vital information from the trials which may have helped reduce fatalities and damage caused by these drugs.

Boots Pharmaceuticals Inc.

In 1987, Dr Betty Dong of the University of California at San Francisco received $250,000 grant to study the effect of the drug Synthroid in comparison to others (Bodenheimer, 2000). As the study reached completion in 1990 it became apparent the drugs tested were bio-equivalent, meaning the most expensive brand-name, Synthroid was no more effective than the cheaper generic alternatives (Turk, 2000, p.59).

As a result Boots threatened legal action and tried for many years to suppress the findings of Dong, clearly preventing the use of the cheaper alternatives for many years (Klein, 2010, p.99).

This is immoral practice, it prevents the cheaper alternative being available, not only increasingly the profits of Boots dishonestly through misrepresentation of fact, but also may prevent patients requiring the treatment from not being able to afford it.

Go to next section: Product crippling

Bodenheimer, T., 2000. Uneasy Alliance – Clinical investigators and the pharmaceutical industry. [online] The New England Journal of Medicine, 342. Available at: [Accessed 10th April 2013].

BBC, 2005. GSK investors bring Paxil lawsuit. 14th April 2005. [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 29th March 2013].

Durman, P. and Rushe, D., 2004. Glaxo faces criminal action in Britain over ‘suicide’ pills. [online] The Sunday Times, 6th June. Available at: [Accessed 30th March 2013].

DrugWatch, 2013. Paxil. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30th March 2013]

FDA, 2007. Antidepressant use in Children, Adolescents and Adults. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28th March 2013].

Klein, N., 2010. No Logo. 4th Edition. London: Fourth Estate.

The Canadian Press, 2012. Paxil lawsuits approved as class action by B.C. Judge. [online] The Canadian Press, December 5th. Available at: [Accessed 28th March 2013].

Tracey, A. B., 2003. Paxil banned for 18 and under in UK and Ireland. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29th March 2013].

Turk, J. ed., 2000. The Corporate Campus: Commercialization and the dangers to Canada’s colleges and university. Toronto: Lorimer.

Wooltorton, E., 2003. Paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat): increased risk of suicide in pediatric patients. [online] CMAJ, Volume 169 (5). Available at: [Accessed 10th April 2013].

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