Provenge: Revolutionary Technology or Ethical Bust?
Dickerson, Justin B
Human vaccines 2011 Apr; 7(4): 477-80
Sipuleucel-T (known by the trade name, "Provenge") is the first prostate cancer vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and represents a new type of cancer therapy termed, Autologous Cellular Immunotherapy (ACT). This therapy has been described as a revolution in technology by clinicians and researchers alike. However, policy-makers and health economists question the efficacy of such treatment given its costs, while mainstream media often bemoan Provenge as yet another example of a healthcare system gone awry. This paper examines the debate for and against Provenge, and discusses why Medicare adoption of payment protocols for the vaccine may violate the egalitarian and feminist principles of distributive justice theory. The paper also acknowledges the larger context of the Provenge debate within the bioethical community; that is, how much should society be willing to invest to prevent death? The paper concludes by arguing for a more thorough ethical review of such new technologies by policy-makers prior to the adoption of funding protocols.
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