Cancer Cures Held Back By Pursuit of Profit

The development of affordable and long lasting treatments for cancer is being held back by a need to satisfy the ambitious commercial objectives of the pharmaceutical industry, which are often at odds with the needs of patients. This has led to exorbitant pricing for new drugs, a failure to invest in promising discoveries that have limited commercial benefits and a drip-feed of new drugs of marginal therapeutic benefit rather than genuine breakthroughs for patients.

Our goal may be to beat cancer sooner but the current profit-led R&D system is geared to beat cancer later, as that's more beneficial for the drug companies who we depend on to turn cancer research into new medicines. We desperately need the R&D system to be reformed, so that it focuses on maximising benefits for patients rather than maximising profits.

In October 2014, Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research and one of the world’s leading experts in cancer drug discovery, told the World Oncology Forum that “the global system for discovering new cancer drugs is broken and failing to turn scientific advances into enough innovative new medicines”.

In September 2015, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe concluded that conflicts of interest between profits and public health within the pharmaceutical industry have led to a lack of new drugs of real therapeutic benefit in recent years and shocking levels of profiteering. Backed by the UK, it voted overwhelmingly in favour of a European-wide Resolution to tackle the issue.

In March 2016, Sir Richard Thompson, the Queen’s personal doctor for 21 years and a former-president of the Royal College of Physicians, warned that drug companies are developing medicines they can profit from, rather than those which are likely to be the most beneficial and he accused the NHS of failing to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies.

It is madness that governments are allowing cancer to be commercially exploited given the scale of suffering and death, and a kick in the teeth for all those who help by donating money to cancer research. We need to stop treating cancer like a money-making opportunity and start treating it like the humanitarian crisis it is.

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Facts and Figures

  • Annual cancer deaths - 9 million
  • Annual cancer drug sales - £75bn
  • Top Selling Cancer Drug 2015 - £5.2bn
  • Average Drug Firm Profit Margin - >20%
  • Avg. New Cancer Drug Adds - 2.7 Mths
  • New Cancer Drug Patents - 20 Yrs
  • Off-Patent Drug Prices - 78% LESS
  • Normal NHS Drug Price Cap - £30k/yr
  • Cancer Drugs NHS Can't Afford - 49%
See our Key Facts page for more detail.

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Changes We Want To See

CampaignTShirtOverhaul Cancer Drug Development

We are campaigning for the UK Government to tackle failures in the system for developing cancer drugs that have led to:
  • profiteering - a failure to curb excessive profit margins on drug prices, leading to drugs being priced out of reach of patients;
  • missed opportunities - a failure to attract investment in promising discoveries with limited commercial potential, or to provide alternative public funding;
  • ineffective drugs - a failure to reward development of drugs with greater therapeutic benefit, in order to speed up progress.
All of these issues have arisen due to the conflicting needs of the pharmaceutical industry, which we rely on to develop cures, and the patients who need them - put simply, wealth vs health.

We are calling on the UK Government to:
  • acknowledge the conflicting goals of those developing cancer drugs and those who need them
  • better regulate the pharmaceutical industry to protect cancer patients' interests
  • ensure that cancer drug prices reflect costs and the public contribution to their discovery
  • find ways to reduce the costs of bringing new cancer drugs to market to ease prices
  • publicly fund promising cancer treatments that fail to attract private investment
  • work with the World Health Organisation to consider alternative drug development models
  • to work with other countries to agree a goal and timeframe to cure the majority of cancers
Comments from Supporters
These are a selection comments from people supporting the campaign.  Help us tell those in Government that this is an issue that people care about, which is costing lives and causing unnecessary suffering: Sign the Petition Now
Lynn Phillips
Lynn PhillipsPetition
The current system does not seem to be working in the best interests of patients, doctors and the NHS. An overhaul is long overdue.
Jim Speed
Jim SpeedPetition
Yet another case of "rip off Britain" and the indifference of the good time over paid boys in parliament.
Lucy Munro-Turner
Lucy Munro-TurnerPetition
Keeping people Ill and subjecting them to outrageously expensive and damaging 'treatments' is big business. It's so wrong in every sense.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
Richard Pink
Richard PinkPetition
This type of profiteering is a disgrace time to nationalise all pharmaceutical companies health is not a luxury its a human right.
Kristin Nichols
Kristin Nichols Petition
I couldn't agree more. Cancer is being controlled by money instead of cured by caring for the wellbeing of humans. I have stopped all donation to cancer research until thus changes. I would rather give my time and loving care directly to those in need.
Hazel Bennett
Hazel BennettFacebook
It's an absolute disgrace, the government should step in now we know the sick are being ripped off
Marina Billinge-Jones
Marina Billinge-JonesPetition
I feel this is blackmail. There is no justification for that abuse of power.
Yvonne Kirkham
Yvonne KirkhamFacebook
Cancer research has contributed towards how these drug companies find the solution. The price is their snub to the sufferers.
Kim Manister
Kim ManisterPetition
I have lost so many of my family to this awful disease and watched them suffer. If there is anything that helps to ease their pain lengthen our time with them, I don't understand why people would make so much money out of this medicine, there is no value on a person's life.
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
Sue De Cesare
Sue De CesarePetition
We have an epidemic in the UK which is being ignored. Integrative Medicine is the answer but no one is listening. I hope this creates some big noise which the government cannot ignore.
Nina Scothern
Nina ScothernPetition
I watched my mother in law die a slow and painful death from ovarian cancer. I am disgusted with profits big pharma makes from the suffering of individuals
Malcolm Wilson
Malcolm WilsonPetition
People need these drugs to save their lives. Whilst I know it costs a lot to design, trial and manufacture, the price you charge is just disgraceful. How about showing a little humanity instead of fleecing dying families??
Michelle McIntosh
Michelle McIntoshPetition
People profiteering and living the life of luxury, from the devastating illness of another human being is inhumane, degrading,selfish and disgusting.
Carole Core
Carole CorePetition
When we support cancer are doing just that - not for any other reason than to find cures and make our loved ones better.  Forget the profiteering that may be in involve - i's not for them we do it.
Hayley Neale
Hayley NealePetition
I couldn't agree with this more. We hear about 'break-throughs' in the media so often and yet those that need it rarely get the benefits of it.
Susanna Williams
Susanna WilliamsPetition
I am despondent about the race for profits by the pharma industry in seeking new cancer breaking drugs. I also am getting cynical about the UK's cancer charities and ask myself what are they doing with the millions of pounds they attract each year?
Lisa Thornton
Lisa ThorntonPetition
Thousands of families suffer due to the cost of cancer drugs, the organisations who research and create these drugs shouldn't be allowed to price them so ridiculously. A person's life should not expire because of greedy people!
Helen Beaumont
Helen BeaumontPetition
Not much shocks me these days but this did to the core. Had breast cancer in 2014 (now a 1 in 8 chance in UK) & never thought that my life could have been compromised for greedy profiteering companies. Governments should stand firm in their condemnation of this practice so it brings into question what their gain is in allowing this to continue. Disgusted that money given generously by the public to Cancer Research is so abused.
Karina Parks
Karina ParksPetition
When people are dying you don't hold back medicine that could save a life!!!
Deb Parsons
Deb ParsonsPetition
It is essential to raise public awareness and to insist that the government act to enable life saving drugs to be affordable and available
Louise Dickinson
Louise DickinsonPetition
I believe those who are profiteering from the sale of these drugs at over- inflated prices have blood on their hands, much the same as any murderer. They have the means to save lives but choose not to do so. Shame on them!
Angela Thompson
Angela ThompsonPetition
When you watch someone you love die of cancer & then realise drug companies are profiteering from their suffering it is sickening.
M Delaney
M DelaneyPetition
It's is completely abhorrent how pharmaceutical companies profiteer from disease, illness and dying.
Maureen Davies
Maureen DaviesFacebook
These drug companies should be taken over by the government so that they can no longer extort money from sick people, cos that is what they are doing.
Eva Roe
Eva RoePetition
A cure for cancer could be within our grasp if global reforms could be made so that countries research teams could work together.
Roger Law
Roger LawFacebook
The government probably make from this that's why they do nothing, it's all about me me me.
Chris Phillips
Chris PhillipsFacebook
People give freely to these charities to help with research and development, so that it can help people with this awful illness. It makes me so cross that the money grabbing CEO's of the drug companies, think they can charge thousands of pounds so that their shareholders and their company can line their pockets at the expense of the suffering.
Jenny Cassidy
Jenny CassidyPetition
I'm outraged at the amount of money given to cancer research over the many years only to be told the drugs that can cure or help are too expensive for me to have...

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