The Ethics of Precision Rationing: Human Genetics and the Need for Debate on Stratifying Access to Medication

Alexis Walker, Angie Boyce, Priya Duggal, Chloe L. Thio, Gail Geller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rising prices for new, transformative therapies are challenging health systems around the world, leading many payers and providers to begin rationing access to treatments, even in the countries that have been most resistant to doing so. This is the case for direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, little attention has been paid to the increasing role that human genetics might play in rationing decisions. Researchers have already proposed that genetic markers associated with spontaneous HCV clearance could be used to restrict DAA access for some patients, although treatment would be medically beneficial for those patients. Would such forms of rationing present a form of genetic discrimination? And what of the public health implications of these approaches? Here we present an ethical analysis of such proposals for "precision rationing"and raise 4 key areas of concern. We argue that ethical issues arising in this area are not substantively different from the pressing ethical issues regarding rationing and discrimination more broadly, but provide important impetus for motivating broad public debate to find ethically sound ways of managing genomics and new expensive medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-153
Number of pages5
JournalPublic Health Genomics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Ethics
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Hepatitis C
  • Rationing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Genetics(clinical)


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