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
Dianne Belton
Dianne BeltonFacebook
As usual money rules. All they care about is how much profit they can make.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
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!
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.
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.
Sylvia Handsley
Sylvia HandsleyPetition
I believe it should be stopped and am surprised the governments allow such dishonesty and corruption stop it now!!!!
Kerry Lackey
Kerry Lackey
Profit over people's health? What kind of nation are we?!! It's shameful.
Pauline Wright
Pauline WrightPetition
The profit being made is obscene. How can they put a profit that large on someone's life?
Carole Accorsini
Carole AccorsiniFacebook
This is absolutely criminal! There must be a law against excessive profiteering, similar to the monopoly laws?! If not then there should be, and quickly, to save many more people dying unnecessarily!
Catherine Davis
Catherine DavisPetition
Make the industry back off. Stop this behaviour now. It is stealing our loved ones. Please I beg you with all of me to put a stop to this.
Avril Williams
Avril WilliamsFacebook
I lost my dad 20yrs ago and my brother 3 yrs ago and now I'm going through it makes me so sick its all about money.
Karina Parks
Karina ParksPetition
When people are dying you don't hold back medicine that could save a life!!!
Paul Donnachie
Paul DonnachiePetition
I object to rich companies using patent laws to rip off the sick and dying with high charges.
Wendy Neal
Wendy NealPetition
Its outrageous that cancer patients are suffering because of exorbitant prices of new drugs STOP IT NOW.
Yvonne Kirkham
Yvonne KirkhamFacebook
Cancer research has contributed towards how these drug companies find the solution. The price is their snub to the sufferers.
Lynn Capon
Lynn CaponPetition
Money before lives? My god, we have lost the plot haven't we. Makes me soooooo angry.
S Ashton
S AshtonPetition
Despicable profiteering! We understand the need to cover costs of research and development and even some profit....but this is just beyond!
Jayne Dentith
Jayne DentithPetition
I'm having cancer treatment but also work for the nhs so am fully aware of the dirty tactics used by drug companies to make profits which will inevitably bring our beloved nhs system to its knees.
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.
Christine Dunphy
Christine DunphyPetition
Get this changed Cameron. NOW!!!!!
Beverley Christopher
Beverley ChristopherPetition
Curing the sick whatever the disease should not be an opportunity for few greedy people to make a fortune.
Maggie Carter
Maggie Carter
I'm sick of drug companies holding lives to ransom. I'm sick of the government allowing it to happen.
Viginia Hicks
Viginia HicksFacebook
Shocking and very sad!!!
Brian Tanner
Brian TannerFacebook
We give to charities for finding a cure and this is how they treat people
Cathy Gouge
Cathy GougeFacebook
Why are these companies allowed to make disgusting profits? Massive wealth should not be made through illness.
Den Carter
Den CarterPetition
For too long the drugs industry has held the NHS to ransom. Time this practice ended.....human suffering should not be a commodity to trade in.
Dawn Woodhams
Dawn WoodhamsPetition
I have lost 3 immediate family members to cancer and to learn this makes me so mad...Total greed the scourge of our time now....
Nita Snowden
Nita SnowdenPetition
This is SO wrong!!
Alistair Armstrong
Alistair ArmstrongFacebook
Greed, greed, greed, so so sick, their God is money and they will never have enough.
Wendy McCormack
Wendy McCormackPetition
Healthcare must not be profit driven - that's just immoral.

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