Effects of Entertainment-Education versus e-Learning on Pharmaceutical Sales Ethical Decision-Making

Between 1991 and 2012, pharmaceutical company settlements with the United States exceeded $30 billion dollars (Rodwin, 2015).  The question asked by Rodwin (2015) and others (Gagnon, 2013; Outterson, 2012) is whether financial fines have had an effect stemming illegal and unethical business management practices in the pharmaceutical industry. 

General and Specific Problems

The general problem is that while management at some companies spend an average of $200,000 annually on compliance and ethics training (Kann, 2013), the effectiveness of these programs to raise employee awareness of compliance risks, and improve ethical decision-making is in question (Treviño, Nieuwenboer, and Kish-Gepharts, 2011; Warren, Gaspar, & Laufer, 2014).  The more specific problem is that sales and marketing managers consistently struggle to identify compliance risks, effectively judge the ethical nature of sales and marketing strategies, and demonstrate behavioral intentions to speak-up.  The target audience for this study includes pharmaceutical sales managers and employees.


The purpose of this quantitative experimental study is to compare the effectiveness of two compliance training program types, entertainment-education, and e-Learning, on ethical decision-making and behavioral intentions to speak-up in the pharmaceutical sales professions. Researchers and practitioners may use findings from this study to determine whether a high-cost professionally developed entertainment-education video is significantly more effective than a simple e-Learning course using static images and on-screen text to influence ethical issue awareness, ethical judgments, and behavioral intentions to speak-up.


Gagnon, M. (2013). Corruption of pharmaceutical markets: Addressing the misalignment of financial incentives and public health. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 41(3), 571-580. doi:10.1111/jlme.12066

Kann, R. (2013). Compliance and ethics training benchmarking reports (Rep. No. CELC7083113SYN) (A. K. McDougall, Ed.). District of Columbia, MD: Corporate Executive Board.

Outterson, K. (2012). Punishing health care fraud — is the GSK settlement sufficient? New England Journal of Medicine, 367(12), 1082-1085. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1209249

Rodwin, M.A. (2015). Do we need stronger sanctions to ensure legal compliance with pharmaceutical firms? Food and Drug Law Journal, 70, 435-452

Treviño, L. K., Nieuwenboer, N. A., & Kish-Gephart, J. J. (2014). (Un)Ethical behavior in organizations. Annual Review of Psychology, 65(1), 130708143622004. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143745

Warren, D. E., Gaspar, J. P., & Laufer, W. S. (2014). Is formal ethics training merely cosmetic? A study of ethics training and ethical organizational culture. Business Ethics Quarterly, 24(1), 85-117. doi:10.5840/beq2014233