Stop Profiteering from Cancer
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The development of affordable and effective treatments for cancer is being held back due to perverse incentives to innovate slowly and a lack of controls over levels of profit on new cancer drugs.
This has led to:
- profiteering - exorbitant pricing for new drugs, resulting in 49% now being too expensive for routine use by the NHS;
- ineffective drugs - a drip-feed of new cancer drugs of limited benefit for patients (average +2.7 months survival improvement for most cancers) rather than genuine breakthroughs; and
- missed opportunities - a failure to invest in promising anti-cancer discoveries that have limited potential for profit, like off-patent drugs and natural products with anti-cancer properties.
Our goal may be to beat cancer sooner but the current R&D system is more likely to beat cancer later, as that's more beneficial for the drug companies who we depend on to translate cancer research into new medicines.
We desperately need the R&D system to be reformed, so that investment is targeted to maximise benefits for patients rather than maximise profits, as it does now.
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 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. It voted overwhelmingly (94%) in favour of a European-wide Resolution to tackle the issue.
In March 2016, Sir Richard Thompson, former President of the Royal College of Physicians warned that drug companies were developing medicines they can profit from rather than those that are likely to be most beneficial.
There is now a unique opportunity to capitalise on this consensus of opinion and urge the UK Government to implement market reforms, which could save thousands of lives by redressing the balance between profits and public health.
The petition calls 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 genuine costs and the public contribution to their discovery
- find ways to reduce the costs of developing new cancer drugs to make them more affordable
- publicly fund promising cancer treatments that fail to attract private investment
- work with the World Health Organisation to implement alternative ways of funding drug development, which improve innovation and access to medicines
- work with other countries to agree a goal and timeframe to cure the majority of cancers
We need to stop treating cancer like a huge money-making opportunity and start treating it like the humanitarian crisis it is.
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