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
Clive Nicholas
Clive NicholasPetition
The market is not sufficiently capable of rewarding cure or preventative treatments as well as life sustaining drugs.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
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.
Kevin Maile
Kevin MailePetition
Scandalous.
Cate Field
Cate FieldPetition
Commercial needs over people's lives??? Is this our world now
M Delaney
M DelaneyPetition
It's is completely abhorrent how pharmaceutical companies profiteer from disease, illness and dying.
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.
Jennifer Bratley
Jennifer BratleyFacebook
Lost for words! Peoples lives are more important than profit, what happened to humanity ?
Karina Parks
Karina ParksPetition
When people are dying you don't hold back medicine that could save a life!!!
Anthony Thomas
Anthony ThomasPetition
Extreme profit from illness is disgusting.
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.
Lynn Capon
Lynn CaponPetition
Money before lives? My god, we have lost the plot haven't we. Makes me soooooo angry.
Paul Donnachie
Paul DonnachiePetition
I object to rich companies using patent laws to rip off the sick and dying with high charges.
Hazel Bennett
Hazel BennettFacebook
It's an absolute disgrace, the government should step in now we know the sick are being ripped off
Lorraine Murphy
Lorraine MurphyPetition
My husband was forced to have chemotherapy which he didn't want in order to get the drug he needed, which cost a lot more - the chemotherapy didn't work.
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.
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....
Sue De Cesare
Sue De CesarePetition
We have an epidemic in the UK which is being ignored. Integrative Medicine is the answer but no one is listening. I hope this creates some big noise which the government cannot ignore.
Yve Collins
Yve CollinsPetition
A cure needs to be found that is effective, not one created for profit.
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.
Cathy Gouge
Cathy GougeFacebook
Why are these companies allowed to make disgusting profits? Massive wealth should not be made through illness.
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.
Bev Christopher
Bev ChristopherFacebook
Where is the legislation that curbs this profiteering. Shouldn't governments intervene to save all the suffering ??
Wendy McCormack
Wendy McCormackPetition
Healthcare must not be profit driven - that's just immoral.
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.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
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!
Janet Firth
Janet FirthPetition
I find the whole thing disgusting that the best is not available for everyone!
Hayley Neale
Hayley NealePetition
I couldn't agree with this more. We hear about 'break-throughs' in the media so often and yet those that need it rarely get the benefits of it.
Kate Westgate
Kate WestgatePetition
Making huge profits like this is disgusting and immoral!

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