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
Roger Law
Roger LawFacebook
The government probably make from this that's why they do nothing, it's all about me me me.
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.
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!
Catherine Davis
Catherine DavisPetition
Make the industry back off. Stop this behaviour now. It is stealing our loved ones. Please I beg you with all of me to put a stop to this.
Lorna Cooke
Lorna CookeFacebook
This is disgusting the Government needs to make a stand!!
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.
Allan Guest
Allan GuestFacebook
My mum lays in bed dying from cancer as i type this... Utterly f***ing disgusting!!!
Shirley Harries-Barnes
Shirley Harries-BarnesFacebook
Just another thing that is ignored by the people that could stop this thing happening. Shame on them.
Wendy Neal
Wendy NealPetition
Its outrageous that cancer patients are suffering because of exorbitant prices of new drugs STOP IT NOW.
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.
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.
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.
Linda McLay
Linda McLayFacebook
What a bloody joke!! Shocking....profit over lives!!
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.
Shirley Nye
Shirley NyeFacebook
Bloody criminal, your life is worth nothing today, it's all about the money!!
Maggie Carter
Maggie Carter
I'm sick of drug companies holding lives to ransom. I'm sick of the government allowing it to happen.
Nita Snowden
Nita SnowdenPetition
This is SO wrong!!
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.
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.
Barbara Antrobus
Barbara AntrobusPetition
I think most people know a cancer sufferer who is not getting the best drugs because of the disgusting profiteering of pharmaceutical companies.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
Bev Christopher
Bev ChristopherFacebook
Where is the legislation that curbs this profiteering. Shouldn't governments intervene to save all the suffering ??
Agnes Eveille
Agnes EveillePetition
We need to stop the pharmaceutical companies from putting money first. Bring some morality and justice back!
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.
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?
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!
Conor O'Brien
Conor O'BrienPetition
Corporate genocide, absolute disgrace that this can happen.
Maureen Allen
Maureen Allen
Drug companies hold people's lives in their hands. Their staff are paid a fortune and the NHS are held to ransom....how can they sleep at night??? Something has to be done and NOW
Dianne Belton
Dianne BeltonFacebook
As usual money rules. All they care about is how much profit they can make.
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!

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