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
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.
Clive Nicholas
Clive NicholasPetition
The market is not sufficiently capable of rewarding cure or preventative treatments as well as life sustaining drugs.
Den Carter
Den CarterPetition
For too long the drugs industry has held the NHS to ransom. Time this practice ended.....human suffering should not be a commodity to trade in.
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.
Nick Hughes
Nick HughesPetition
What pharmaceutical companies are allowed to get away with is indescribably wrong. Morally wrong. Ethically wrong and it should be legally impossible to conduct themselves in this cold hearted profiteering lives where so much death can be laid directly at their feet.
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.
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.
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??
Conor O'Brien
Conor O'BrienPetition
Corporate genocide, absolute disgrace that this can happen.
Dianne Belton
Dianne BeltonFacebook
As usual money rules. All they care about is how much profit they can make.
Yve Collins
Yve CollinsPetition
A cure needs to be found that is effective, not one created for profit.
Anne Murphy
Anne MurphyPetition
The whole country raises millions of pounds every year. Put it to the use that us as fund raiser's expect it to go to. When we walk/run etc for hours sometimes through the night. We do it for a cure & to help our loved ones.
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!
David Herbert
David HerbertFacebook
Once again the public who donate so selflessly are ripped off - utter greed and our government turn a blind eye.
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.
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
Shirley Nye
Shirley NyeFacebook
Bloody criminal, your life is worth nothing today, it's all about the money!!
Bev Christopher
Bev ChristopherFacebook
Where is the legislation that curbs this profiteering. Shouldn't governments intervene to save all the suffering ??
Beverley Christopher
Beverley ChristopherPetition
Curing the sick whatever the disease should not be an opportunity for few greedy people to make a fortune.
Linda McLay
Linda McLayFacebook
What a bloody joke!! Shocking....profit over lives!!
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.
Lynn Nowne
Lynn NownePetition
It is so wrong to do this to people suffering in this way. Pure greed !!
Carole Accorsini
Carole AccorsiniFacebook
This is absolutely criminal! There must be a law against excessive profiteering, similar to the monopoly laws?! If not then there should be, and quickly, to save many more people dying unnecessarily!
Ann Craughwell
Ann CraughwellPetition
All drugs for cancer or any other illness need to be sold at a price that we the customer be that the NHS or private patients can afford and not make stupid amounts of profit for companies.
Karina Parks
Karina ParksPetition
When people are dying you don't hold back medicine that could save a life!!!
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
Donna Lower
Donna LowerFacebook
Disgusting. We pay towards the research and yet when drugs are created then we cant afford to buy them!!!
Kristin Nichols
Kristin Nichols Petition
I couldn't agree more. Cancer is being controlled by money instead of cured by caring for the wellbeing of humans. I have stopped all donation to cancer research until thus changes. I would rather give my time and loving care directly to those in need.
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
Agnes Eveille
Agnes EveillePetition
We need to stop the pharmaceutical companies from putting money first. Bring some morality and justice back!

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