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.

Latest Blog Post

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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
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.
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.
Louise Cartwright
Louise CartwrightPetition
You can't put a price on someone's life. A few extra years could mean that they could watch a child grow, get married, meet a grandchild, and lots more.
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.
Marion Ryan
Marion RyanPetition
While cancer patients continue accepting and taking these useless drugs , no cures will be found...why would there!!
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.
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.
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!
Clive Nicholas
Clive NicholasPetition
The market is not sufficiently capable of rewarding cure or preventative treatments as well as life sustaining drugs.
David Herbert
David HerbertFacebook
Once again the public who donate so selflessly are ripped off - utter greed and our government turn a blind eye.
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.
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!
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.
Shirley Harries-Barnes
Shirley Harries-BarnesFacebook
Just another thing that is ignored by the people that could stop this thing happening. Shame on them.
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.
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.
Lynn Capon
Lynn CaponPetition
Money before lives? My god, we have lost the plot haven't we. Makes me soooooo angry.
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.
Alice Herron
Alice HerronFacebook
This is shocking this is extortion and all should be named and shamed. Research is paid for by us all . The money we give to charity and the millions left by individuals for cancer research so anyone unfortunate enough to need these drugs should receive this treatment free always. We give billions of pounds to cancer research every year lets not forget this.
Nick Hughes
Nick HughesPetition
What pharmaceutical companies are allowed to get away with is indescribably wrong. Morally wrong. Ethically wrong and it should be legally impossible to conduct themselves in this cold hearted profiteering lives where so much death can be laid directly at their feet.
Kate Hollis
Kate HollisPetition
It is appalling that pharmaceutical companies are profiteering from people's misfortune and it appears from donations for the purpose of cancer research.
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.
Vanessa Elaine
Vanessa ElaineFacebook
It's crazy! And it's this way everywhere. It's the same here in the US. They've gotten away with it way too long!
Jim Speed
Jim SpeedPetition
Yet another case of "rip off Britain" and the indifference of the good time over paid boys in parliament.
Maureen Walker
Maureen WalkerFacebook
Should cap profit and save lives,it makes sense...
Wendy McCormack
Wendy McCormackPetition
Healthcare must not be profit driven - that's just immoral.
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.
Rachel Adams
Rachel AdamsPetition
It is diabolical that big pharma is profiteering on the back the pain, misery and death of cancer victims and their loved ones. Anyone complicit in this process does not belong in public office. Prove your worth and stop this hideous practice before more lives are ended prematurely and in agony.
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.
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.

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