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
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.
Anthony Thomas
Anthony ThomasPetition
Extreme profit from illness is disgusting.
Donna Lower
Donna LowerFacebook
Disgusting. We pay towards the research and yet when drugs are created then we cant afford to buy them!!!
Agnes Eveille
Agnes EveillePetition
We need to stop the pharmaceutical companies from putting money first. Bring some morality and justice back!
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.
Kenneth Gray
Kenneth GrayPetition
Corporate greed over people, when are all MP's going to do their job and put a stop to this extortion of the ill and dying?
Jayne Heath
Jayne HeathFacebook
People all over donate money, raise money for cancer so people get what they need. There should be no price on these drugs apart from a prescription charge if need be. We pay to help others live and they deny them. Disgusting.
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?
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.
Yve Collins
Yve CollinsPetition
A cure needs to be found that is effective, not one created for profit.
Diane Griffiths
Diane GriffithsFacebook
This is so wrong in many ways...we know they keep researching new drugs and this needs funding but this sort off profit is obscene
Kate Westgate
Kate WestgatePetition
Making huge profits like this is disgusting and immoral!
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.
Shirley Harries-Barnes
Shirley Harries-BarnesFacebook
Just another thing that is ignored by the people that could stop this thing happening. Shame on them.
Maggie Carter
Maggie Carter
I'm sick of drug companies holding lives to ransom. I'm sick of the government allowing it to happen.
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.
Marion Ryan
Marion RyanPetition
While cancer patients continue accepting and taking these useless drugs , no cures will be found...why would there!!
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.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
Brian Tanner
Brian TannerFacebook
We give to charities for finding a cure and this is how they treat people
Madeleine Noakes
Madeleine NoakesFacebook
That's why they don't want to find a permanent cure for cancer toooooooo much money in so called cancer drugs.
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.
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
Joanne Allman
Joanne AllmanPetition
The elephant in the room is the egregious conflict of interest between health and profit which has driven the development of ever more expensive, toxic drugs to the exclusion of more natural and affordable approaches.
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.
Neil Hunter
Neil HunterPetition
This is completely immoral & needs sorting out, just like a lot more of the global corruption condoned by governments.
Diarmaid McDonald
Diarmaid McDonaldPetition
It is time we challenged big pharma's lies.
David McAndrew
David McAndrewPetition
The criminal profiteering of drug companies is an utter disgrace and must be stopped from happening.
Beverley Christopher
Beverley ChristopherPetition
Curing the sick whatever the disease should not be an opportunity for few greedy people to make a fortune.
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.

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