ETHICAL CASE STUDY FOR CHAPTER 13 WEIGHING THE ODDS Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States and much of the developed world, and people who are obese are at a significantly greater risk of stroke heart attack, and diabetes. Researchers have worked for years to develop a weight loss product that is safe and effective. Several years ago, researchers identified a naturally occurring compound that was effective in appetite suppression, As the marketing manager for a major dietary supplement company, this was good news and so you convinced your company to invest several hundred thousand dollars in research and development. After several years of testing, the results show that 85 percent of people using the supplement were able to lose at least 20 pounds in the first year of use. In addition, those who continued to take the supplement were able to maintain their weight loss for an additional year. Company executives believe that this drug can bring billions of dollars in revenues in the first year of sales. Because your products are sold over the counter as nutritional supplements rather than medications, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. THE DILEMMA You are reviewing the results of the clinical trials and are pleased to see that the product is effective. Just as you are ready to recommend that the company introduce the product to the market, you uncover some upsetting information. A small group of people who took the supplement during testing, less than 1%, developed a rare neurological disorder. It is not clear that the supplement is the cause of the disorder, but it was not observed in the control group that took a placebo. Because the risk is so small, the risk management team is recommending that the company go ahead with introducing the supplement and monitor to see if consumers repot a similar side effect. Commercialization of this product could make your company profitable and could potentially save thousands of lives by helping consumers lose weight, but you are unsure of the right thing to do. How would you characterize the ethical issues in this case? From an ethical standpoint, what are the obligations of the marketing manager regarding the introduction of this product? If you were the marketing manager, how would you handle this situation?
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