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Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Sector

The Handbook of Business and Corruption

ISBN: 978-1-78635-446-4, eISBN: 978-1-78635-445-7

Publication date: 29 August 2017


Using the pharmaceutical sector as a microcosm of the health sector, we highlight the most prevalent structural and policy issues that make this sector susceptible to corruption and ways in which these vulnerabilities can be addressed. We conducted a literature review of publications from 2004 to 2015 that included books, peer-reviewed literature, as well as gray literature such as working papers, reports published by international organizations and donor agencies, and newspaper articles discussing this topic. We found that vulnerabilities to corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occur due to a lack of good governance, accountability, transparency, and proper oversight in each of the decision points of the pharmaceutical supply chain. What works best to limit corruption is context specific and linked to the complexity of the sector. At a global level, tackling corruption involves hard and soft international laws and the creation of international standards and guidelines for national governments and the pharmaceutical industry. At a national level, including civil society in decision-making and monitoring is also often cited as a positive mechanism against corruption. Anticorruption measures tend to be specific to the particular “site” of the pharmaceutical system and include improving institutional checks and balances like stronger and better implemented regulations and better oversight and protection for “whistle blowers,” financial incentives to refrain from engaging in corrupt behavior, and increasing the use of technology in processes to minimize human discretion. This chapter was adapted from a discussion piece published by Transparency International UK entitled Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Sector: Diagnosing the Challenges.




This chapter was adapted from a report published by Transparency International UK entitled Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Sector: Diagnosing the Challenges. We would like to acknowledge the support of Michael Petkov and James Sale in the development of the chapter.


Martinez, M.G., Kohler, J.C. and McAlister, H. (2017), "Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Sector", Aßländer, M.S. and Hudson, S. (Ed.) The Handbook of Business and Corruption, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 329-361.



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