Publication Details

Carter, S. M., Samuel, G. N., Kerridge, I., Day, R., Ankeny, R. A., Jordens, C. F. C. & Komesaroff, P. (2010). Beyond rhetoric in debates about the ethics of marketing prescription medicines to consumers: The importance of vulnerability in people, situations and relationships. American Journal of Bioethics Primary Research, 1 (1), 11-21.


This article examines community responses to the marketing of prescription medicines. Historically, debates about such marketing have focused on alleged unscrupulousness of pharmaceutical companies and on the quality of information provided. Six focus groups were conducted in Sydney, Australia, three with older and three with younger community members. Analysis examined interactions between group members, the positions participants took up, conflicting arguments, and explanations for variation. Participants argued specifically rather than generally about consumer marketing of medicines. Neither the moral purpose of corporations nor the quality of information in advertisements was particularly important. Instead, pharmaceutical marketing was assessed in relation to vulnerabilities that existed in individual consumers, in doctors, in the contexts of illness, and as a result of medications being potentially dangerous. The critical ethical issue in prescription medicine marketing may be the existence of vulnerabilities and the responsibilities they may generate. We outline three possible policy responses suggested by these participants.



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