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
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.
Chris Wilder
Chris WilderPetition
This is serious and nothing to do with politics, just pure avarice.
Carolyn Crawford
Carolyn CrawfordFacebook
Absolutely shocking. Lives don't matter anymore. Consciences have been desensitised in the name of greed.
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.
Danny Baverstock
Danny BaverstockPetition
Would the profiteers feel that the paper in their wallet meant anything if they themselves were at deaths door, dying from the very thing they once had the power to cure?
John Spence
John SpencePetition
This is criminal and should be rectified immediately.
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.
Ann Morgan
Ann MorganPetition
These companies should be ashamed. Profiteering on the misery of others. Its disgusting. You know they would make far more profit if it was affordable for all.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
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.
Ann Chadwick
Ann ChadwickPetition
My husband is one of these people. It makes me so angry. Greed before need. I believe in Karma.
Christine Foote
Christine FooteFacebook
Sheer greed! A sad world we live in.
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.
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
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
Kathleen Barry
Kathleen Barry
This government needs to get it's priorities right! Disgraceful what they are letting these drug companies get away with!
Kate Westgate
Kate WestgatePetition
Making huge profits like this is disgusting and immoral!
Ernest Haslam
Ernest HaslamFacebook
Since 1998 we have been giving a donation EVERY MONTH to cancer research. When we found out a couple of years ago that this was going on we stopped giving to cancer research. We now give to a local charity who we know really need the money.
Pam Livesey
Pam LiveseyPetition
I am in remission at the moment but I fear I may be running out of options. I understand the need to make profits to encourage further research and development but this profiteering is immoral.
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.
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.
Jean Montgomory
Jean MontgomoryFacebook
What's the point of all the research and development if no body can afford to treat patients with the drugs anyway I think the company's would soon lower the prices if every country stopped buying them.
Bev Christopher
Bev ChristopherFacebook
Where is the legislation that curbs this profiteering. Shouldn't governments intervene to save all the 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.
Roger Law
Roger LawFacebook
The government probably make from this that's why they do nothing, it's all about me me me.
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.
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!
Paul Donnachie
Paul DonnachiePetition
I object to rich companies using patent laws to rip off the sick and dying with high charges.
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.
Yve Collins
Yve CollinsPetition
A cure needs to be found that is effective, not one created for profit.

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