Document Type : Original Article


DBA Programs, College of Management and Technology, Walden University, Minneapolis, MN, USA


BACKGROUND: Some pharmaceutical company sales representatives are using bribes to encourage
increasing medication prescriptions. In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline paid $3 billion on a felony charge
related to bribing doctors to prescribe the company’s medications. Using Hunt and Vitell’s general
theory of marketing ethics, the purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to explore strategies
some sales managers in the pharmaceutical industry used to improve marketing training to reduce
unethical sales representative behavior.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data were collected from company reports and documents provided
by sales managers and semistructured interviews with five sales managers of different pharmaceutical
companies in the northeast region of the United States. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis
and Yin’s 5‑step process of compiling, disassembling, reassembling, interpreting, and concluding
thematic data analysis.
RESULTS: Three themes emerged from data analysis: developing ethical standards, developing
organizational policy, and implementing training and development programs. A key recommendation is
that pharmaceutical sales managers identify ethical standards to inculcate in their business practices
to achieve ethical marketing training that can result in sales representatives’ ethical behavior. The
implications for positive social change include the potential for sales managers to develop strategies
to reduce unethical behavior in the pharmaceutical industry.
CONCLUSION: Reducing unethical behavior may lead to more trust between patients and physicians,
improving patient satisfaction and promoting prosperity for the community through enhancing the
quality of health care.


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