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

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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
Rachel Owen
Rachel OwenPetition
Most of this research is paid for by Cancer Research - money raised by the public, myself included. Why should we raise money only to have it hoarded by drug companies who charge too much. NHS is in crisis! These unfair profit margins and mark ups should be investigated and not be allowed to continue.
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!
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.
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.
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?
Malcolm Wilson
Malcolm WilsonPetition
People need these drugs to save their lives. Whilst I know it costs a lot to design, trial and manufacture, the price you charge is just disgraceful. How about showing a little humanity instead of fleecing dying families??
Marion Ryan
Marion RyanPetition
While cancer patients continue accepting and taking these useless drugs , no cures will be found...why would there!!
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.
Chris Wilder
Chris WilderPetition
This is serious and nothing to do with politics, just pure avarice.
Ann Abbott
Ann AbbottFacebook
Abuse of those of us who do what we can to support charities whose money funds the research that is supposed to help those suffering.
Avril Williams
Avril WilliamsFacebook
I lost my dad 20yrs ago and my brother 3 yrs ago and now I'm going through it makes me so sick its all about money.
Sue Jones
Sue JonesFacebook
There aren't even enough words for people who profit from dying people and actually cause death because they only care about money. Beggars belief it's so shameful.
Ann Chadwick
Ann ChadwickPetition
My husband is one of these people. It makes me so angry. Greed before need. I believe in Karma.
Kat Petrovic
Kat PetrovicPetition
It is an outrage that we should have to petition for this. The government and we the people should be ashamed to let this go on.
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!
Maxine Cook
Maxine CookPetition
It is a travesty of humanity to deny people the best shot at survival because keeping them sick pays more.
Sue De Cesare
Sue De CesarePetition
We have an epidemic in the UK which is being ignored. Integrative Medicine is the answer but no one is listening. I hope this creates some big noise which the government cannot ignore.
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.
Wendy Neal
Wendy NealPetition
Its outrageous that cancer patients are suffering because of exorbitant prices of new drugs STOP IT NOW.
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.
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.
Vernon Fewtrell
Vernon FewtrellFacebook
How many times do they need to get their R&D costs back?
Fiona Downs
Fiona DownsPetition
We need to stop people getting rich from others suffering.
Clive Nicholas
Clive NicholasPetition
The market is not sufficiently capable of rewarding cure or preventative treatments as well as life sustaining drugs.
Madeleine Noakes
Madeleine NoakesFacebook
That's why they don't want to find a permanent cure for cancer toooooooo much money in so called cancer drugs.
Donna Lower
Donna LowerFacebook
Disgusting. We pay towards the research and yet when drugs are created then we cant afford to buy them!!!
Lorna Cooke
Lorna CookeFacebook
This is disgusting the Government needs to make a stand!!
Louise Cartwright
Louise CartwrightPetition
You can't put a price on someone's life. A few extra years could mean that they could watch a child grow, get married, meet a grandchild, and lots more.
Maureen Henderson
Maureen HendersonPetition
These drugs should be for everyone not just the rich.
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.

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