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
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!
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.
Donna Lower
Donna LowerFacebook
Disgusting. We pay towards the research and yet when drugs are created then we cant afford to buy them!!!
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?
Yvonne Kirkham
Yvonne KirkhamFacebook
Cancer research has contributed towards how these drug companies find the solution. The price is their snub to the sufferers.
Carolyn Crawford
Carolyn CrawfordFacebook
Absolutely shocking. Lives don't matter anymore. Consciences have been desensitised in the name of greed.
Shirley Harries-Barnes
Shirley Harries-BarnesFacebook
Just another thing that is ignored by the people that could stop this thing happening. Shame on them.
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.
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?
Christine Dunphy
Christine DunphyPetition
Get this changed Cameron. NOW!!!!!
Gloria Brady
Gloria BradyFacebook
It's a pity the EU don't get to grips with this serious situation instead of passing stupid laws on what we eat and what size it should be.
Hazel Bennett
Hazel BennettFacebook
It's an absolute disgrace, the government should step in now we know the sick are being ripped off
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.
Len Andersdon
Len AndersdonPetition
Too many people profit from cancer research.
Wendy Harrison
Wendy HarrisonPetition
My son died of cancer at the age of 25. He was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma when he was 22. His chemo was so harsh but he endured it because he wanted to live, It is immoral to make such a huge profit at the cost of lives. It must be stopped.
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.
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.
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
Fiona Downs
Fiona DownsPetition
We need to stop people getting rich from others suffering.
Marion Ryan
Marion RyanPetition
While cancer patients continue accepting and taking these useless drugs , no cures will be found...why would there!!
Lynn Capon
Lynn CaponPetition
Money before lives? My god, we have lost the plot haven't we. Makes me soooooo angry.
Lorna Boyes
Lorna BoyesPetition
It is a disgrace that this is happening. Our health is paramount, if it was up to the people of this country, we would do all we can to do the right thing.
Kate Westgate
Kate WestgatePetition
Making huge profits like this is disgusting and immoral!
Linda McLay
Linda McLayFacebook
What a bloody joke!! Shocking....profit over lives!!
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.
Sylvia Handsley
Sylvia HandsleyPetition
I believe it should be stopped and am surprised the governments allow such dishonesty and corruption stop it 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?
Julie Tack
Julie TackFacebook
This is disgusting.
Barbara Antrobus
Barbara AntrobusPetition
I think most people know a cancer sufferer who is not getting the best drugs because of the disgusting profiteering of pharmaceutical companies.
Louise Crawley
Louise CrawleyPetition
Disgusting that there are people benefiting out of peoples misery with cancer. It is an evil evil thing. My mum is going through it now and I would give every inch of my being if it meant helping her get better.

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