Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NuvaRing: Birth Control Costing Lives (2011-2014)

NuvaRing packaging and product

From 2011 to 2014 the pharmaceutical company, Merck & Co. had over 1,000 lawsuits filed against them about the vaginal contraceptive, Nuvaring. NuvaRing was developing by Organon, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., and received clearance from FDA in 2001 and was on the market by 2002. The ring works by controlling the release of hormones that prevent pregnancy and suppress ovulation. The big problem with this product is that serious side effects that it causes. The product has been known to increase serious cardiovascular risk. Blood clots in the legs and lungs are a more serious set of side effects, along with a risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolism. These side effects are all quite rare but still pose a risk factor and are all something that should be considered before using the product.

In this case there a lot of different groups of people are affected by this product. One of the biggest stakeholders, in this case, are the people who made the decision to put this product on the market. The people in charge of this drug, the owners of Organon and Merck & Co., were the people, who made the decision to put the drug on the market and knowingly conceal the very serious side effects of this drug. The other big stakeholder in this situation are the people who used this product. The people who used the product were the ones that were most directly affected from having dealt with the side effects. Stockholders and people who may have invested in Merck & Co. or Organon also may have been affected by this controversy. Merck & Co. received a great deal of bad publicity from this case, this had and still has the potential to drop the stock value of the company dramatically. All of the people have been seriously affected by the product whoever the management of the company received no real punishment, they had the power to change the outcome of the situation and because they didn’t they may have lost funding or received pay cuts due to the large settlement.

Kennet Frazier, CEO of
Merck & Co. since 2011
If you take a quick at this case at all it is clear to see that Merck & Co.’s only goal was sell this product the best they could and profit from it. The obtained a patent for the Nuvaring so that other companies could not come out with a similar product. This took out the need to convey that the were absolutely being socially responsible with this product. They didn’t need to convey that their company or this product is more socially acceptable than another company’s version because there isn’t another version. Merck & Co. simply had to market the benefits of the product. Legally they had to disclose the side effects of the product but what they did was focus more on the milder side effects that come with many pharmaceutical products. After lawsuits started rolling in they still did not admit to anyone wrong doing say that they had told everyone about the side effects and that it is not their fault for the things that have happened to the people using the product. They ended up settling to pay for some damages to people affect negatively by this product. This strategy follows Friedman’s theory they were just trying to settle the case so they did not end up losing more that they already have to give away. They neglect to take any responsibility for the things that happened.

With this case, there are many different angles that could be taken while looking at it through a utilitarian lens. The people of Merck & Co. who developed and produced this product surely did not have to intend to cause harm and death to the women who used the Nuvaring. They were trying to make life a little bit easier for these women by only having to worry about their contraceptive once a month. However, if you look at the way they marketed this product it seems as though they did not care much about the happiness of other people that would be affected by this product. And were much more worried about finding their own happiness from the money that would make from this “revolutionary” product. They concealed many of the very serious side effects so that they could still sell this product. If one were to determine whether this is a good or bad act through utilitarianism it would most certain be considered bad because of the consequences that the women and families had to suffer through from this product.

In looking at this case through a Kantianism lens one would say that Merck & Co. acted very immoral. They seemed to consider themselves exempt from the law concealing the serious side effects and not admitting to any wrong doing. They clearly did not respect the people that they were selling this product too. Had they respected them they would have explained all of the side effects from the Nuvaring. Their maxim was to pay the $100 million to the victims because of sympathy. It was not the praise worthy thing to do.

Virtue Theory
Merck & Co. headquarters in Kenilworth, NJ
In this case, Merck & Co. does not seem to posses any of there virtues. They did not have the courage to carry out the right actions before and after the lawsuits came piling in. They should have gone through the right processes and procedures to ensure that their product would not harm anyone while using it. They were not honest in providing the explanation what side effects may take place while using the Nuvaring. They also did not have to justice to provide a safe product to their customers. They did not have a quality product and they also did not have good ideas when they were marketing the product and conceal the major sides effects that brought serious harm to many of their customers.

Justification Ethics Evaluation

My opinion on this case is that Merck & Co. did some very questionable things that makes me to think less of the company. The idea of producing this product and selling it to people who are looking for a product that gives women the freedom to not have to worry about contraception everyday is no what concerns me. I think that the concept of this product is great and could make women day just that little bit easier. However, the way Merck & Co. went about marketing this product was unethical from my perspective. They could have spent a little more time developing the product so that the product is just as effective but does not have the serious side effects of embolisms that could potentially lead to death, in some cases it did. It is not to say that this is the only pharmaceutical product that has very serious side effects that could dramatically change a person’s life. In some case like this you hear about all the side effects that could happen from using a new drug or product. With the Nuvaring Merck & Co. made it so that the focus was more on the side effects that come with almost every new pharmaceutical product. To me that is extremely wrong. They were looking for ways that would benefit themselves while selling a product that is supposed to make life easier for people. When a company is design a product that is supposed be helping people self-interest should be one of the last things that company should be concerned with. After so many lawsuits were filed against they did not have much of a choice but to settle and pay for damages. Otherwise they could have lost a lot more money. That, to me, seems like that right thing to do so that they could repay people for the trouble they went through. Not admitting to any wrong doing is also something that I have a problem with. Even they may not have flat out violated the law, they violated the trust of may people and that is not forgivable.


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"Merck & Co., Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Merck & Co., Inc." Merck & Co., Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Merck & Co., Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.

"Merck & Co. â Drug Manufacturer's History & Products." DrugWatch. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2015

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"Families, Lawsuits, Raise Questions about NuvaRing - CNN.com." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.

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