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
Robert Halliday
Robert HallidayFacebook
Why is this being allowed to happen, how can these drugs cost so much they say they need research but surely once they, develop the drugs it cant cost that much to reproduce, they are heartless?
Anthony Thomas
Anthony ThomasPetition
Extreme profit from illness is disgusting.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
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?
Paul Donnachie
Paul DonnachiePetition
I object to rich companies using patent laws to rip off the sick and dying with high charges.
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.
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!
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
Neil Hunter
Neil HunterPetition
This is completely immoral & needs sorting out, just like a lot more of the global corruption condoned by governments.
Pauline Wright
Pauline WrightPetition
The profit being made is obscene. How can they put a profit that large on someone's life?
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.
Kevin Maile
Kevin MailePetition
Scandalous.
Jim Speed
Jim SpeedPetition
Yet another case of "rip off Britain" and the indifference of the good time over paid boys in parliament.
Kathleen Barry
Kathleen Barry
This government needs to get it's priorities right! Disgraceful what they are letting these drug companies get away with!
Clive Nicholas
Clive NicholasPetition
The market is not sufficiently capable of rewarding cure or preventative treatments as well as life sustaining drugs.
Lorna Boyes
Lorna BoyesPetition
It is a disgrace that this is happening. Our health is paramount, if it was up to the people of this country, we would do all we can to do the right thing.
Wendy McCormack
Wendy McCormackPetition
Healthcare must not be profit driven - that's just immoral.
Vernon Fewtrell
Vernon FewtrellFacebook
How many times do they need to get their R&D costs back?
Pauline Timms
Pauline TimmsFacebook
This is murder. Both the financial aspect and literally letting people die. Can governments do nothing about this? It is unforgivable.
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.
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.
Christine Elliot
Christine ElliotPetition
The pharmaceutical companies are putting profit before cure, basically lining their pockets at the expense of people's lives.
Peter Wood
Peter WoodPetition
Drug companies make massive profits out of all their drug manufacturing, its about time all of these companies amalgamated their efforts to eradicate cancer once and for all.Stop looking at the profit margin for cancer drugs, for once please think of what living with cancer is really like. PLEASE. Thank you.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
Viginia Hicks
Viginia HicksFacebook
Shocking and very sad!!!
Roger Law
Roger LawFacebook
The government probably make from this that's why they do nothing, it's all about me me me.
Elizabeth Carballo
Elizabeth CarballoPetition
The cost of making the drug does not reflect the price, if it's life saving, let them have it.
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.
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
Alistair Armstrong
Alistair ArmstrongFacebook
Greed, greed, greed, so so sick, their God is money and they will never have enough.

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