Can corporations be ‘good citizens’?

In the article “Global Pharmaceutical Markets and Corporate Citizenship: The Case of Novartis’ Anti-cancer Drug Glivec,” Stefan Ecks analyzes the claim that corporations aim to be ‘good citizens,’ and that they are driven by more than just profits. What initially compelled, and then admittedly perplexed me in this article, was my own reaction to the case of ‘Novartis versus the government of India’. I found myself at first agreeing with the pharmaceutical citizens versus Novartis, and such claims as “Instead of giving lifesaving drugs to those who needed them, Novartis was taking them away for no other reason than capitalist profit maximization.” Surely the big bad pharmaceutical firm is the wrongdoer in this situation; they do not care in the least about the poor who cannot afford their expensive drugs, but only for their own growth and returns. In the next section of the work, however, Ecks describes the pharmaceutical citizens pro Novartis, and makes a persuasive argument in favour of his thesis. Obviously one of the main goals of any business is to profit, but other goals that are central to Novartis’ ‘Global Corporate Citizenship (GCC) programmes are achieved through what they call ‘access-to-medicine programmes. These access-to-medicine programmes in 2006 donated $755 million worth of pharmaceuticals, which reached 33.6 million patients across the world who were impoverished or otherwise could not afford medications. (Ecks, 172) To further support Novartis, Ecks seems correct in stating that big pharma firms do not really seek to profit from developing nations, rather, their greatest returns come from the United States and Europe. As it turns out, the debate discussed in this work is much more complex than initially thought, and even at the time of writing, I am unsure as to which side I would support…

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