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
Allan Guest
Allan GuestFacebook
My mum lays in bed dying from cancer as i type this... Utterly f***ing disgusting!!!
Chris Phillips
Chris PhillipsFacebook
People give freely to these charities to help with research and development, so that it can help people with this awful illness. It makes me so cross that the money grabbing CEO's of the drug companies, think they can charge thousands of pounds so that their shareholders and their company can line their pockets at the expense of the suffering.
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!
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!
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
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?
Carole Core
Carole CorePetition
When we support cancer are doing just that - not for any other reason than to find cures and make our loved ones better.  Forget the profiteering that may be in involve - i's not for them we do it.
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.
Nita Snowden
Nita SnowdenPetition
This is SO wrong!!
Bev Christopher
Bev ChristopherFacebook
Where is the legislation that curbs this profiteering. Shouldn't governments intervene to save all the suffering ??
Len Andersdon
Len AndersdonPetition
Too many people profit from cancer research.
Ann Abbott
Ann AbbottFacebook
Abuse of those of us who do what we can to support charities whose money funds the research that is supposed to help those suffering.
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.
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.
John Spence
John SpencePetition
This is criminal and should be rectified immediately.
Neil Hunter
Neil HunterPetition
This is completely immoral & needs sorting out, just like a lot more of the global corruption condoned by governments.
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!
Elizabeth Carballo
Elizabeth CarballoPetition
The cost of making the drug does not reflect the price, if it's life saving, let them have it.
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.
Linda McLay
Linda McLayFacebook
What a bloody joke!! Shocking....profit over lives!!
Christine Elliot
Christine ElliotPetition
The pharmaceutical companies are putting profit before cure, basically lining their pockets at the expense of people's lives.
Wendy Neal
Wendy NealPetition
Its outrageous that cancer patients are suffering because of exorbitant prices of new drugs STOP IT NOW.
Dianne Belton
Dianne BeltonFacebook
As usual money rules. All they care about is how much profit they can make.
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!
Mary Stewart
Mary StewartPetition
People are dying horrible deaths, so a few can make a great deal,and the worse thing is these greedy people are already stinking rich.
David Herbert
David HerbertFacebook
Once again the public who donate so selflessly are ripped off - utter greed and our government turn a blind eye.
Susan Dowling
Susan DowlingPetition
I think its disgusting that there are people in this world that will put money before human life.
Paul Donnachie
Paul DonnachiePetition
I object to rich companies using patent laws to rip off the sick and dying with high charges.
Shirley Harries-Barnes
Shirley Harries-BarnesFacebook
Just another thing that is ignored by the people that could stop this thing happening. Shame on them.
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.

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