Ethics of Offshoring: Novo Nordisk and Clinical Trials in Emerging Economies
(9 pages of text)
The case outlines the conflicting ethical demands on a Danish pharmaceuticals company, Novo Nordisk, that is operating globally and is aspiring to high standards of corporate social responsibility. A recent report alleges that multinational pharmaceutical companies routinely conduct trials in developing countries under alleged unethical conditions. The company's director reflects on how to respond to a request from a journalist for an interview. This triggers a discussion on the appropriate ethical principles and how to communicate them. As a company emphasizing corporate responsibility, the interaction with the media presents both opportunities and risks to Novo Nordisk. The case focuses on clinical trials that are required to attain regulatory approval in, for example, Europe and North America, and that are conducted at multiple sites around the world, including many emerging economies. Novo Nordisk has implemented numerous procedures to protect its various stakeholders, yet will this satisfy journalists and non-governmental organizations, and how should the company communicate with these stakeholders?
The case was written primarily for classes on international/global business strategy in emerging economies and business in emerging economies, which usually have one or two sessions towards the end on ethical aspects of business. It has also been used very successfully in a “big picture” course run in the first week of an MBA program to stimulate students to think about contemporary challenges in global business. The case is also suitable for classes on business ethics and research methods in business schools and other training programs.
Specific learning objectives are:
- Understanding and evaluating economic and ethical issues relating to offshoring in emerging economies. For this objective, the case may be combined with cases focusing on, for example, labour standards or corruption.
- Appreciating ethical principles that may on occasion be in conflict with each other, notably medical ethics (concerns about the individual patient), scientific ethics (concerns about potential future users) and business ethics (especially the profit motive).
- Appreciating the relationship between business and the public, in particular the media, and developing skills in communicating effectively on sensitive issues with such audiences.
The case is also appropriate for a doctoral level course, even if such a course normally does not use the case method. The case allows students to enhance their awareness of ethical issues. Awareness of these issues prepares students for interactions with ethics committees, especially in universities where they include individuals trained in medical ethics (in Australia this appears to be common).
Denmark, Global, Medium, 2008
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