Ethical Issues in Pharmaceutical Marketing


From an International Perspective, Special Issue of Journal of Global Marketing; Deadline 31 Dec 2020


Author: Bruce Huhmann

Ethical Issues in Pharmaceutical Marketing from an International Perspective

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of the Journal of Global Marketing

Pharmaceutical marketing has long been a subject of criticism and controversy. Due to the societal problems resulting from ethical lapses in the marketing of pharmaceutical products, researchers in several fields have explored ethical issues in pharmaceutical marketing. However, global aspects of pharmaceutical marketing have been almost completely ignored, whereas other research on ethical issues in pharmaceutical marketing was primarily conducted during the 1990s and early 2000s and mostly outside of marketing and business. Also, this research has tended to focus almost entirely on ethical issues with direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) and pharmaceutical salespeople’s influence on and gifts to physicians.

Although open to investigations into all areas of marketing, this special issue strives to encourage more research on mostly ignored or under-researched ethical implications of marketing practices and consumer behavior or misbehavior with regard to pharmaceuticals in a variety of international contexts. While DTCA is currently allowed only in the United States of America and New Zealand, pharmaceuticals are marketed in diverse ways in nations across the globe. Thus, research into pharmaceutical marketing ethics from any nation, including ones in addition to the USA or New Zealand, is also encouraged.

Research is welcomed from any of a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, as is research that helps create a theory-based foundation for this growing field of inquiry. The application of novel or multiple methodologies to expand on findings from surveys or content analyses found in prior research would make a useful contribution.

This special issue is envisioned to highlight the best emerging research on ethical issues in pharmaceutical marketing from across the globe in an effort to aid health service providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and marketers, regulators, advocacy groups, and policymakers to ameliorate the negative effects of unethical practices. Therefore, diverse topics are suitable for the special issue. Topics include, but are not limited to, the investigation of ethical issues related to the following possibilities:

• Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA)

o Traditional DTCA (e.g., broadcast or print)
o eDTCA, an electronic form of DTCA (e.g., social media marketing, drug websites, mobile marketing)
o Influence on consumers’ knowledge, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors
o Impact on drug and healthcare cost
o Impact of eDTCA on the health and safety of global consumers
o Spillover effects from eDTCA to untargeted consumers in other countries.
• Detailing (promotion to physicians) and trade advertising to physicians
o Drug samples and gifts to providers
o Sponsorship of research seminars, events, continuing medical education (CME)
o Medical journal advertising

• International comparisons of ethical issues arising from regulatory regimes

o Cross-cultural differences in marketing practices considered to be ethical
o Regulatory and ethical challenges worldwide
o Ethical issues with economic liberalization or government versus private ownership of manufacturing, distribution channels, or healthcare systems
o Pharmaceutical lobbying and its impact on consumers and society
o Best (and worst) practices revealed by a comparative marketing systems approach

• Societal repercussions of overly aggressive marketing of pharmaceuticals that lead to overuse or addiction

o Marketing of opioids and marijuana
o Use of public nuisance versus product liability laws by governments to fight pharmaceutical marketing practices and sales in court
o Pharmaceutical lobbying and its impact on consumers and society
o Health costs and externalities related to over-prescribed and/or addictive pharmaceuticals

• Pricing of pharmaceuticals

o Price discrimination between countries or groups of patients within a country
o Exorbitant pricing or price gouging with life-saving drugs
o Price fixing of pharmaceuticals
o Dumping of pharmaceuticals at a below-market or below-cost price internationally
o Pharmaceutical pricing hidden from consumers/hospital patients until after use

• Distribution and supply chains of pharmaceuticals
o Cross-border purchases by consumers
o Online drug retailing
o Grey marketing by distributors or internet sellers
o Unfair and imbalanced distribution or drug availability across countries or consumer populations
o Pharmaceutical pricing hidden from consumers/hospital patients until after use

• Counterfeit drugs

• Marketing by and regulation of marketing practices of compounding pharmacies

• Corporate social responsibility and social marketing by pharmaceutical companies

Authors are invited to submit papers that may have substantial practical, theoretical and/or social implications. Both quantitative and qualitative (empirical and conceptual) studies, including marketing and consumer behavior models, experiments, correlational studies, causal studies and meta-analysis are all welcome.

Submission Guidelines
All manuscripts should be submitted electronically to the Journal of Global Marketing via the online submission system    .

The first page must contain the title, author(s) and contact information of the corresponding author. For author guidelines, please see the ‘Instructions for Authors.’

All manuscripts will be subjected to double-blind peer review and should follow the general guidelines for authors of the Journal of Global Marketing.

Time Frame
• Full paper submission deadline: December 31, 2020
• Feedback from reviewers and revisions on a rolling basis during January – April, 2021
• Possible publication in 2021

Special Issue Guest Editors
Dr. Yam B. Limbu, Montclair State University, USA. Email:
Dr. Bruce A. Huhmann, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA. Email: