Formulating an Ethics of Pharmaceutical Disinvestment.


Sydney Health Ethics, Level 1, Medical Foundation Building, K25, The University of Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia. [Email]


There is growing interest among pharmaceutical policymakers in how to "disinvest" from subsidized medicines. This is due to both the rapidly rising costs of healthcare and the increasing use of accelerated and conditional reimbursement pathways which mean that medicines are being subsidized on the basis of less robust evidence of safety and efficacy. It is crucial that disinvestment decisions are morally sound and socially legitimate, but there is currently no framework to facilitate this. We therefore reviewed the bioethics literature in order to identify ethical principles and concepts that might be relevant to pharmaceutical disinvestment decisions. This revealed a number of key ethical considerations-both procedural and substantive-that need to be considered when making pharmaceutical disinvestment decisions. These principles do not, however, provide practical guidance so we present a framework outlining how they might be applied to different types of disinvestment decisions. We also argue that, in this context, even the most rigorous ethical reasoning is likely to be overridden by moral intuitions and psychological biases and that disinvestment decisions will need to strike the right balance between respecting justifiable moral intuitions and overriding unjustifiable psychological impulses.


Bioethics,Disinvestment,Market withdrawal,Pharmaceutical funding,Pharmaceutical regulation,

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