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
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.
Paul Donnachie
Paul DonnachiePetition
I object to rich companies using patent laws to rip off the sick and dying with high charges.
Kathleen Barry
Kathleen Barry
This government needs to get it's priorities right! Disgraceful what they are letting these drug companies get away with!
Elizabeth Carballo
Elizabeth CarballoPetition
The cost of making the drug does not reflect the price, if it's life saving, let them have it.
Vernon Fewtrell
Vernon FewtrellFacebook
How many times do they need to get their R&D costs back?
Anthony Thomas
Anthony ThomasPetition
Extreme profit from illness is 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.
Kerry Lackey
Kerry Lackey
Profit over people's health? What kind of nation are we?!! It's shameful.
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.
Shirley Harries-Barnes
Shirley Harries-BarnesFacebook
Just another thing that is ignored by the people that could stop this thing happening. Shame on them.
Christine Dunphy
Christine DunphyPetition
Get this changed Cameron. NOW!!!!!
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.
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.
Allan Guest
Allan GuestFacebook
My mum lays in bed dying from cancer as i type this... Utterly f***ing disgusting!!!
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??
Bev Christopher
Bev ChristopherFacebook
Where is the legislation that curbs this profiteering. Shouldn't governments intervene to save all the suffering ??
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.
Conor O'Brien
Conor O'BrienPetition
Corporate genocide, absolute disgrace that this can happen.
Donna Lower
Donna LowerFacebook
Disgusting. We pay towards the research and yet when drugs are created then we cant afford to buy them!!!
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.
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.
Sylvia Handsley
Sylvia HandsleyPetition
I believe it should be stopped and am surprised the governments allow such dishonesty and corruption stop it now!!!!
Dianne Belton
Dianne BeltonFacebook
As usual money rules. All they care about is how much profit they can make.
Nita Snowden
Nita SnowdenPetition
This is SO wrong!!
Yvonne Kirkham
Yvonne KirkhamFacebook
Cancer research has contributed towards how these drug companies find the solution. The price is their snub to the sufferers.
Pat Johnson
Pat JohnsonPetition
Saving lives should never be about profit, money making or greed! Think if it was one of your own family!
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?
Fiona Downs
Fiona DownsPetition
We need to stop people getting rich from others suffering.
Louise Crawley
Louise CrawleyPetition
Disgusting that there are people benefiting out of peoples misery with cancer. It is an evil evil thing. My mum is going through it now and I would give every inch of my being if it meant helping her get better.
Wendy McCormack
Wendy McCormackPetition
Healthcare must not be profit driven - that's just immoral.

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