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
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
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.
Cate Field
Cate FieldPetition
Commercial needs over people's lives??? Is this our world now
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!
Lisa Thornton
Lisa ThorntonPetition
Thousands of families suffer due to the cost of cancer drugs, the organisations who research and create these drugs shouldn't be allowed to price them so ridiculously. A person's life should not expire because of greedy people!
Carol Rafferty
Carol RaffertyFacebook
Absolutely disgraceful, shame on this government.
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.
Jennifer Bratley
Jennifer BratleyFacebook
Lost for words! Peoples lives are more important than profit, what happened to humanity ?
Viginia Hicks
Viginia HicksFacebook
Shocking and very sad!!!
Sylvia Handsley
Sylvia HandsleyPetition
I believe it should be stopped and am surprised the governments allow such dishonesty and corruption stop it now!!!!
Susan Dowling
Susan DowlingPetition
I think its disgusting that there are people in this world that will put money before human life.
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.
Julia Neal
Julia NealPetition
It's one thing to cover the cost of development and make a reasonable profit, but it's quite another to make treatment out of the reach of millions when the cost is so little.
John Spence
John SpencePetition
This is criminal and should be rectified immediately.
Janet Firth
Janet FirthPetition
I find the whole thing disgusting that the best is not available for everyone!
Kenneth Gray
Kenneth GrayPetition
Corporate greed over people, when are all MP's going to do their job and put a stop to this extortion of the ill and dying?
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.
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.
M Delaney
M DelaneyPetition
It's is completely abhorrent how pharmaceutical companies profiteer from disease, illness and dying.
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.
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.
Joanne Allman
Joanne AllmanPetition
The elephant in the room is the egregious conflict of interest between health and profit which has driven the development of ever more expensive, toxic drugs to the exclusion of more natural and affordable approaches.
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?
Diane Griffiths
Diane GriffithsFacebook
This is so wrong in many ways...we know they keep researching new drugs and this needs funding but this sort off profit is obscene
Maggie Carter
Maggie Carter
I'm sick of drug companies holding lives to ransom. I'm sick of the government allowing it to happen.
Christine Elliot
Christine ElliotPetition
The pharmaceutical companies are putting profit before cure, basically lining their pockets at the expense of people's lives.
Rona Cornwall
Rona CornwallPetition
I have always thought that the pharmaceutical industry was ripping us off and think it is disgraceful towards the human race.
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.
Ann Chadwick
Ann ChadwickPetition
My husband is one of these people. It makes me so angry. Greed before need. I believe in Karma.

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