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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston forging partnerships with ethically questionable corporations

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Genzyme’s Cambridge offices

A recent press release by University of Massachusetts Boston officials revealed that the university has formed a partnership with Sanofi, a multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Paris, France, which boasts the world’s fourth-highest prescription sales.
The partnership with Sanofi and its Cambridge-based biotechnology company, Genzyme, was accompanied by a “$1 million gift to support student success programs in the University of Massachusetts Boston’s College of Science and Mathematics (CSM),” according to the press release.
With minimal research, one will discover that Sanofi is no stranger to controversy. The pharmaceutical giant has been involved in a host of legal battles, and its ethics have been openly questioned.
Sanofi’s most recent legal kerfuffle was a lawsuit involving its own investors. The company was accused of misleading investors about the safety of a weight loss pill, which was linked to suicidal thoughts by a U.S. regulatory panel.
The drug, Zumulti, was touted as a “blockbuster” that treated obesity while causing only minimally mild side effects. The FDA deemed that claim false. This caused a predictable tumble in the price of Sanofi stock, causing investors to lose wads of money.
Sanofi has since reached a $40 million all-cash settlement with the plaintiffs in a bid to move past the debacle. The stain on its reputation can’t be washed off that simply.
Speaking of stains on reputations, prior to the investor lawsuit, the company was accused in August of bribing more than 500 doctors in China in an attempt to raise sales.
According to Reuters, a whistleblower leaked to the 21st Century Business Herald that the company’s staff had paid over 1.7 million yuan (about $277,000) in bribes to 503 doctors at 79 hospitals in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou in late 2007. The whistleblower chose to remain anonymous, but the newspaper insists that he revealed content that led them to believe that he was, or had been, a high-level employee of Sanofi.
Granted, the company hasn’t been explicitly found guilty by a court of law regarding any of these claims, but the mere fact that these claims and lawsuits (as well as settlements) have occurred indicates unprincipled, reprehensible dealings on the part of Sanofi.
UMass Boston is an establishment that holds itself in very high regard, not just academically, but ethically. The university presents itself as an institution rich in culture, and a bastion of principles. Why then is the university in partnership with morally reprehensible institutions such as Sanofi?
Sponsorship funds for research or other essential programs in the university are understandably desirable. Still, are we going to accept money from every Tom, Dick, and Harry regardless of how badly an association with them would reflect on the university? That’s a question that the officials of UMass Boston need to ponder.