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

12 Sep
Cancer Drugs Sold for Many Times R&D Costs

Cancer Drugs Sold for 25 Times R&D Costs

A new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal has found ... More

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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
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.
Roger Law
Roger LawFacebook
The government probably make from this that's why they do nothing, it's all about me me me.
Jenny Cassidy
Jenny CassidyPetition
I'm outraged at the amount of money given to cancer research over the many years only to be told the drugs that can cure or help are too expensive for me to have...
Lynn Capon
Lynn CaponPetition
Money before lives? My god, we have lost the plot haven't we. Makes me soooooo angry.
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.
Karina Parks
Karina ParksPetition
When people are dying you don't hold back medicine that could save a life!!!
Carolyn Crawford
Carolyn CrawfordFacebook
Absolutely shocking. Lives don't matter anymore. Consciences have been desensitised in the name of greed.
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.
Kate Westgate
Kate WestgatePetition
Making huge profits like this is disgusting and immoral!
Sylvia Handsley
Sylvia HandsleyPetition
I believe it should be stopped and am surprised the governments allow such dishonesty and corruption stop it now!!!!
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.
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.
Cathy Gouge
Cathy GougeFacebook
Why are these companies allowed to make disgusting profits? Massive wealth should not be made through illness.
Lucy Munro-Turner
Lucy Munro-TurnerPetition
Keeping people Ill and subjecting them to outrageously expensive and damaging 'treatments' is big business. It's so wrong in every sense.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
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.
Keith Bennett
Keith BennettPetition
Why IS such important work in the hands of private companies ????? Government wastes billions of OUR Money on weapons research, & on propping up corrupt regimes. Can`t WE fund Cancer research & give REAL hope of affordable treatment to seriously ill People?
Ann Craughwell
Ann CraughwellPetition
All drugs for cancer or any other illness need to be sold at a price that we the customer be that the NHS or private patients can afford and not make stupid amounts of profit for companies.
Diarmaid McDonald
Diarmaid McDonaldPetition
It is time we challenged big pharma's lies.
Maxine Cook
Maxine CookPetition
It is a travesty of humanity to deny people the best shot at survival because keeping them sick pays more.
Lorna Cooke
Lorna CookeFacebook
This is disgusting the Government needs to make a stand!!
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.
Deb Parsons
Deb ParsonsPetition
It is essential to raise public awareness and to insist that the government act to enable life saving drugs to be affordable and available
Bob Newman
Bob NewmanFacebook
Research takes a large amount of money but it is immoral to charge extortionate amounts such as this. The bosses of these Corporations need taking down a peg or two. Profits are fine but these percentages are ridiculous!
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.
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....
Alistair Armstrong
Alistair ArmstrongFacebook
Greed, greed, greed, so so sick, their God is money and they will never have enough.
Catherine Rowen
Catherine RowenPetition
The greed of these companies is totally sickening.
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.
John Spence
John SpencePetition
This is criminal and should be rectified immediately.

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