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.

Featured Post

20 Mar
Cancer Drug Profiteering

£99 Cancer Drug Being Sold for £83,000

Shocking new evidence has come to light of massive profiteering from ... More
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
Robert Halliday
Robert HallidayFacebook
Why is this being allowed to happen, how can these drugs cost so much they say they need research but surely once they, develop the drugs it cant cost that much to reproduce, they are heartless?
Sandra Sherriff-Meyer
Sandra Sherriff-MeyerPetition
Cancer treatments should be actively researched and made available for all types of cancers, not only those with substantial commercial profit for pharmaceutical companies. Cancer doesn't discriminate. Neither should they.
James Hobson
James HobsonPetition
I think it is diabolical, unfair and a damned disgrace to charge such overinflated prices for medication for people who are in need of this to save their lives. Companies charging such prices should be prosecuted as it's nothing short of robbery and fraud.
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
Neil Hunter
Neil HunterPetition
This is completely immoral & needs sorting out, just like a lot more of the global corruption condoned by governments.
Jennifer Bratley
Jennifer BratleyFacebook
Lost for words! Peoples lives are more important than profit, what happened to humanity ?
Maureen Allen
Maureen Allen
Drug companies hold people's lives in their hands. Their staff are paid a fortune and the NHS are held to ransom....how can they sleep at night??? Something has to be done and NOW
Pauline Timms
Pauline TimmsFacebook
This is murder. Both the financial aspect and literally letting people die. Can governments do nothing about this? It is unforgivable.
Cate Field
Cate FieldPetition
Commercial needs over people's lives??? Is this our world now
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.
Yvonne Kirkham
Yvonne KirkhamFacebook
Cancer research has contributed towards how these drug companies find the solution. The price is their snub to the sufferers.
Rachel Owen
Rachel OwenPetition
Most of this research is paid for by Cancer Research - money raised by the public, myself included. Why should we raise money only to have it hoarded by drug companies who charge too much. NHS is in crisis! These unfair profit margins and mark ups should be investigated and not be allowed to continue.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
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.
Marilyn Dickens
Marilyn DickensFacebook
I know drugs companies have to make a profit and investment, but this is just disgusting, disgraceful and down right appalling, and yes I'm a cancer patient multiple myeloma and bowel cancer!
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?
Janine Gove
Janine GovePetition
There seem to have been many cancer breakthroughs in recent years, that have flared into a bright hope before fading away without ever becoming mainstream treatment. To learn that in treating seriously ill people, profit is put before innovation and progression, has left me appalled at the sheer waste of top notch research and the charity that funds it.
James Brannan
James BrannanPetition
I totally agree that of course people's lives must come before profits. We can't hold back anything that helps progress towards saving lives.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
Rona Cornwall
Rona CornwallPetition
I have always thought that the pharmaceutical industry was ripping us off and think it is disgraceful towards the human race.
Danny Baverstock
Danny BaverstockPetition
Would the profiteers feel that the paper in their wallet meant anything if they themselves were at deaths door, dying from the very thing they once had the power to cure?
Conor O'Brien
Conor O'BrienPetition
Corporate genocide, absolute disgrace that this can happen.
Kerry Lackey
Kerry Lackey
Profit over people's health? What kind of nation are we?!! It's shameful.
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.
Julia Neal
Julia NealPetition
It's one thing to cover the cost of development and make a reasonable profit, but it's quite another to make treatment out of the reach of millions when the cost is so little.
Ann Morgan
Ann MorganPetition
These companies should be ashamed. Profiteering on the misery of others. Its disgusting. You know they would make far more profit if it was affordable for all.
Marina Billinge-Jones
Marina Billinge-JonesPetition
I feel this is blackmail. There is no justification for that abuse of power.
Anne Murphy
Anne MurphyPetition
The whole country raises millions of pounds every year. Put it to the use that us as fund raiser's expect it to go to. When we walk/run etc for hours sometimes through the night. We do it for a cure & to help our loved ones.
Shirley Clatworthy
Shirley Clatworthy Facebook
Why is this being allowed to happen - the world is going to pot over money.

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