Large pharmaceutical firms paid over $33 billion in penalties over the past 13 years for illegal practices, according to new research from a UNC Charlotte researcher. 

The study, published in today’s Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), found that 85% of large pharmaceutical firms surveyed were penalized with the most common penalties being pricing violations, off-label marketing and kickback. 

Denis Arnold, a professor of management in the Belk College of Business, is the author of the study. He previously authored or co-authored six papers on the pharmaceutical industry, including two papers that document the industry’s failure to adhere to their own self-regulatory guidelines regarding direct-to-consumer advertising. Arnold, Arnold, the Surtman Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics, teaches business ethics at the college. 

In a Q&A, Arnold noted that his research is particularly important during the global COVID-19 pandemic, as pharmaceutical companies seek approval and market vaccines and treatments. 

“Firms with high historical incidences of illegal activity are more likely to engage in the fraudulent representation of research data, the suppression of negative side-effects, and the false marketing of their products,” Arnold said. “[The study] is very much related to COVID-19 research in that a firm with a history of misconduct would have a higher probability of lying about the efficacy of their vaccines or therapeutic treatments.”

About Denis Arnold
Denis Arnold is the Jule and Marguerite Surtman Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics. He is a widely published scholar with a focus on business ethics, corporate misconduct, corporate responsibility, and public policy regarding business. Arnold recently served a five-year term as Editor in Chief of Business Ethics Quarterly, the leading academic business ethics and corporate responsibility journal. He is a past President of the Society for Business Ethics, the main professional organization for business ethics scholars in the United States.

Arnold has provided executive ethical leadership and compliance training at Fortune 500 companies, smaller enterprises, and non-profit organizations. His comments on business ethics have been published and broadcast at over 20 different media outlets. Dr. Arnold is a past recipient of the Belk College's "Best Paper" Award for faculty research as well as the Belk College’s "Outstanding Service" Award. 

Professor Arnold is available for interviews.