The pharmaceutical industry is accountable on the one hand to its shareholders and on the other to the community at large. These two obligations can, in principle, be met. However, the industry has developed practices that do not consider society, including excessive or inappropriate pricing of drugs, an indifference to the needs and limitations of the developing world, an imbalance between true innovation and promotional activity, interference with clinical investigations, and efforts to mould medical thinking and priorities as a means to enlarge the market. In such respects, the pharmaceutical industry must now be called to order. The industry has shown itself to be sufficiently resilient to adapt to change if society insists on it. However, to influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society's public-health interests.