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
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.
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
Kerry Lackey
Kerry Lackey
Profit over people's health? What kind of nation are we?!! It's shameful.
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.
Lynn Phillips
Lynn PhillipsPetition
The current system does not seem to be working in the best interests of patients, doctors and the NHS. An overhaul is long overdue.
Catherine Rowen
Catherine RowenPetition
The greed of these companies is totally sickening.
Len Andersdon
Len AndersdonPetition
Too many people profit from cancer research.
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.
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.
Dianne Belton
Dianne BeltonFacebook
As usual money rules. All they care about is how much profit they can make.
Cathy Gouge
Cathy GougeFacebook
Why are these companies allowed to make disgusting profits? Massive wealth should not be made through illness.
Hazel Bennett
Hazel BennettFacebook
It's an absolute disgrace, the government should step in now we know the sick are being ripped off
Karina Parks
Karina ParksPetition
When people are dying you don't hold back medicine that could save a life!!!
M Delaney
M DelaneyPetition
It's is completely abhorrent how pharmaceutical companies profiteer from disease, illness and dying.
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?
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.
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.
Agnes Eveille
Agnes EveillePetition
We need to stop the pharmaceutical companies from putting money first. Bring some morality and justice back!
Roger Law
Roger LawFacebook
The government probably make from this that's why they do nothing, it's all about me me me.
Maureen Walker
Maureen WalkerFacebook
Should cap profit and save lives,it makes sense...
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.
Diarmaid McDonald
Diarmaid McDonaldPetition
It is time we challenged big pharma's lies.
Susan Dowling
Susan DowlingPetition
I think its disgusting that there are people in this world that will put money before human life.
Rachel Adams
Rachel AdamsPetition
It is diabolical that big pharma is profiteering on the back the pain, misery and death of cancer victims and their loved ones. Anyone complicit in this process does not belong in public office. Prove your worth and stop this hideous practice before more lives are ended prematurely and in agony.
Carolyn Crawford
Carolyn CrawfordFacebook
Absolutely shocking. Lives don't matter anymore. Consciences have been desensitised in the name of greed.
Allan Guest
Allan GuestFacebook
My mum lays in bed dying from cancer as i type this... Utterly f***ing disgusting!!!
Nina Scothern
Nina ScothernPetition
I watched my mother in law die a slow and painful death from ovarian cancer. I am disgusted with profits big pharma makes from the suffering of individuals
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?
David Herbert
David HerbertFacebook
Once again the public who donate so selflessly are ripped off - utter greed and our government turn a blind eye.
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?

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