Purpose - Taxes are used to subsidise the public use of pharmaceuticals in some countries. This paper seeks to quantify criteria considered important by the Australian public for allocating resources for pharmaceuticals. Design/methodology/approach - A discrete choice experiment (DCE) was administered to two samples of adults in Australia. A forced choice design was used in a pilot study, but an opt-out option was included in the main study to avoid forcing choice. Data were alysed using multinomial logit. Findings - For the levels and units presented in the DCE, quality of life (QoL) after treatment was the most important attribute in both the pilot and main studies, followed by survival after treatment and the chance of success for a given pharmaceutical. Cost to the government was of little importance in the pilot study, but was of importance in the main study. Practical implications - By understanding public preferences, marketers can tailor pharmaceutical offerings that appeal to the public and to relevant pharmaceutical funding bodies when making submissions, thus increasing the likelihood of receiving public funding support. Understanding public preferences allows public policy-makers to direct resources towards those medical technologies which are likely to give the greatest overall societal benefit. Origility/value - This study shows the simultaneous importance of survival, QoL, chance of success and cost to public preferences for pharmaceutical funding. Cost (tax) sigls suggest the public are willing to limit the amount they expect the government to pay for effective pharmaceuticals.