Expensive anti-cancer drugs expose controversy underlying the process for resource allocation decisions, and intermittently result in marked publicity, emotive discussions about access to novel and expensive treatments, and political involvement which may override existing processes. This column outlines the methods of determining whether or not a treatment is considered appropriate to fund, and focuses upon the evidence of patient and doctor wishes. The existing research illustrates the complexity of patient and oncologist decision-making when these drugs are to be considered. Past litigation to obtain access to expensive treatments is discussed, along with the interactions between patients, pharmaceutical companies, health services and oncologists. This evolving field is being transformed by developments in molecular biology enabling targeted drugs, and amply demonstrates the complexity of funding decisions and how expensive treatments are considered by a range of stakeholders.