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Moral ambivalence towards the Cancer Drugs Fund
  1. Ilias Ektor Epanomeritakis
  1. History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Mr Ilias Ektor Epanomeritakis; iee21{at}


The UK’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) was introduced in 2010 following the Conservative Party’s promise to address the fact that numerous efficacious cancer drugs were not available because of their cost ineffectiveness, as deduced by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. While, at face value, this policy appears only to promote the UK’s public welfare, a deeper analysis reveals the ethically unjustifiable inconsistencies that the CDF introduces; where is the analogous fund for other equally severe diseases? Have the patients without cancer been neglected simply due to the fear-inducing advertising and particularly ferocious speech which surrounds cancer? The CDF is unjustifiable when challenged by such questions. However, it is troubling to think that the CDF might be repealed in order to abolish these ethical concerns. Intuitively, one feels uncomfortable stripping the cancer patient of their benefits just so that they might be on an equally pessimistic footing with others. In the present essay, I argue that, although there are no ethically justifiable grounds for the CDF’s introduction, its removal would be inappropriate. Following this realisation, I investigate whether the procedural steps of the CDF itself—theoretically removed from the context of resource distribution for all disease types—represent an ethically justifiable system. I believe that the answer is yes, given the CDF’s conformity to accountability for reasonableness, a robust framework of procedural justice, which continuously improves the ethical and epistemological standards of the policies to which it is applied.

  • allocation of health care resources
  • public health ethics
  • decision-making
  • distributive justice
  • ethics committees/consultation

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  • Contributors Dr Stephen John who, in his capacity as my supervisor, critically reviewed a draft of my essay which I presented to him.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Collaborators Dr Stephen David John

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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