mercoledì 30 novembre 2016

Letter to House of Commons Commercial Exploitation of Cancer


 [MP’s Name]

House of Commons

Dear [MP’s name],

Commercial Exploitation of Cancer

I have been shocked to learn that cancer patients and their families are being let down by failures in the system, which are being exploited to maximise profits at patients’ expense, something which has come to my attention through a campaign called Dying for a Cure (

Pharmaceutical companies are being allowed to make obscene levels of profit from life-saving drugs, resulting in escalating costs for the NHS and pricing many drugs out of reach of patients. And, to rub salt into the wounds, the British public has contributed to the cost of developing many of these drugs through donations to cancer research charities. When the British public pay towards the cost of research that results in a safe and effective drug, an unreasonably high price should not limit their access to it – a drug that nobody can access is 100% ineffective and drug patent owners should not be allowed to retain exclusivity on drug discoveries if they limit access to the drugs through aggressive pricing. It is one thing to cover the cost of development and make a reasonable profit, but it’s quite another to price the treatment out of the reach of millions when the cost is so little.

As an example of the profiteering that is being allowed, one cancer drug called Glivec, which costs only £99 to make, is being sold for up to £83,000 in some countries. By the end of 2016 this drug is forecast to have generated total sales for the drug company that owns it of USD$50bn, whereas the R&D costs are estimated at less than USD$1bn.

Pharmaceutical companies are clearly abusing their dominant market positions to commercially exploit the desperation of cancer patients and the generosity and compassion of millions of people who raise money for cancer research, effectively condemning millions of people to premature deaths and holding back cures for this devastating disease.

Furthermore, many opportunities for potential new treatments are being missed because the system is overly dependent on the private sector and failing to attract investment in opportunities that have limited commercial potential, even if they have demonstrated therapeutic potential in laboratory studies. Pharmaceutical companies have a primary duty to their shareholders, so it is hardly surprising that we have ended up with very profitable drugs rather than very effective ones.

I also understand that the UK backed a Council of Europe Resolution in September 2015, to tackle some of these issues and that the UK Government has so far failed to implement the measures agreed, despite the fact that these issues are causing unnecessary suffering and deaths.

One person dies of cancer somewhere in the world every four seconds and millions lack access to life-saving drugs as they are too expensive, yet the system we have to help them appears to be geared to maximise profits rather than survival.

As my MP, I urge you to take steps to address this commercial exploitation of millions of vulnerable people.

Yours sincerely,