This is an open letter from me to World Leaders about cancer. If we truly want to beat cancer sooner, we need to cooperate across the world to use our money, knowledge and skills more wisely - for public benefit, not for profit.
Dear World Leaders,
Please Get Your Act Together on Cancer
Having lost my wife to cancer at a young age, I was staggered to learn that governments and health insurers across the world give around USD $70bn (£48bn) of our money to pharmaceutical companies every year to develop fewer than 10 new cancer drugs, which extend patient's lives by an average of just 2.7 months for most cancers.
I was also astonished to discover that 74% of new cancer drugs in the pipeline work the same way as drugs being developed by other companies, so most of this money is spent duplicating effort - what a ridiculous waste of our money!
It also appears that very expensive finance is being used to fund the development of these drugs, with an average cost of capital of 10.5%; more than 5 times higher than typical government borrowing rates. It is like going to a pay-day lender to get your mortgage!
Furthermore, I was shocked to learn that the companies we give this money to, are making the highest profit margins of any major industry in the world, with an average profit margin of over 20%, while at the same time pricing many drugs out of reach of patients and countries with limited budgets. They are clearly abusing monopolies of supply to produce exceptional returns, despite the consequence being premature death for many people. This is even more appalling given that public donations and taxes have contributed to the discovery and development of drugs that large numbers of people can't access.
Please get your act together.
The costs of developing new cancer drugs could be halved at least if you cooperated and publicly funded R&D to reduce the investment cost and eliminate duplication.
Also, prices for new cancer drugs could be reduced by over 75% by publicly funding R&D and keeping drug patents in the public domain, allowing millions more people to access these life-saving drugs around 12 years earlier.
And, without a profit motive, research and development of new cancer drugs could be optimised for health benefits not financial benefits, resulting in drugs that are far more beneficial for patients.
One person dies of cancer every 3.5 seconds and by 2030 this is forecast to rise to one every 2.3 seconds; cancer causes more than twice as many deaths than HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C all put together. It is a growing humanitarian crisis that causes immense suffering and premature loss of life, so please stop treating it like a massive money-making opportunity and sort this shameful mess out - for the sake of everyone dying for a cure.
Cancer widower and founder of the Dying for a Cure campaign
P.S. References to the figures quoted in this letter can be found at: http://dyingforacure.org/key-facts