Home News In a World First, ASDA Announces 'Not for Profit' Price on All Cancer Treatment Drugs

In a World First, ASDA Announces 'Not for Profit' Price on All Cancer Treatment Drugs

Asda calls on industry to follow its lead and end price mark ups on cancer treatment drugs

LEEDS, UK – Thursday, May 20, 2010. Today, in a world first, Asda announces a commitment to sell all privately prescribed cancer treatment drugs on a permanent ‘not for profit’ basis potentially saving thousands of pounds for sufferers. Lung disease is the biggest cancer killer of women in the UK and as part of Asda’s ‘not for profit’ commitment it now means that the price of Iressa, used to treat lung cancer, is now available for £2,167.71 compared to £2,601.25 at Lloyds Pharmacy, £3,251.57 at Boots and £3,253.56 at Superdrug.

Cancer is the UK’s second biggest killer, affecting nearly 300,000 people per year and for many the cost of treatment is well above what they can afford. Research compiled for Asda compared the price of seven of the most commonly privately prescribed cancer drugs available at the main high street pharmacies in the UK where marks ups of up to 76 per cent were uncovered.

Superdrug was found to offer the highest prices on four out of the seven drugs compared and marked up all seven of the drugs by 50 per cent over cost price. Prices at Lloyds and Tesco were consistently marked up by 20 per cent, while at Boots, all seven drugs were marked up by either 50 per cent or 27.5 per cent.

Currently, cancer sufferers in the UK face a three pronged challenge in their battle for affordable treatment:

Pharmacy mark ups

The cost of private prescription anti-cancer drugs varies significantly between pharmacies, which are able to charge at their discretion and are known to mark up anti-cancer drugs by as much as 76 per cent.

Post code lottery on cancer funding

The annual spend per cancer patient across the 152 PCTs in England can vary by as much as 286 per cent. This ‘postcode lottery’ impacts patients as it determines the cancer treatment people are eligible for on the NHS.

Variations on cancer drug availability on the NHS

There are significant variations in the cancer drugs which are available on the NHS within each PCT. Drugs such as Iressa and Afinitor, which treat Lung Cancer and Kidney Cancer, are only available with a private prescription. This means that should a patient require either drug, they have no other option but to pay for it under a private prescription.

John Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist at Asda, comments:

“The crippling cost of paying privately for cancer treatment has forced many people to spend their savings or even re-mortgage their house to pay for these essential drugs.

“We are the first retailer to recognise this injustice and to do something about it and we are calling on other retailers to follow our lead. It’s a small step in the right direction but, our permanent ‘not for profit’ price on cancer treatment drugs makes them more accessible and can save people hundreds if not thousands of pounds.”

Asda's new CEO Andy Clarke, who lost his own parents to cancer, supported the move to make these vital drugs available at the lowest possible price.

"Saving people money so they can live better is viewed by many as just the marketing slogan of our parent company, Walmart.

"However, when you see what we can achieve in areas like cancer and ivf treatments to reduce prices, the reality of that mission statement becomes very real and very personal.

"I'm very proud of the work of our pharmacy team are doing to lower prices.”
Additionally, Asda is working with suppliers to negotiate further discounts on the trade price of
privately prescribed cancer drugs, with any savings passed directly on to customers as soon as they are available.

According to research by Asda, 63 per cent of people are unaware that private prescription prices vary between pharmacies, with the majority of people (76 per cent) going to the same pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. A staggering 92 per cent of people surveyed have never compared the prices of private prescription drugs.

This announcement follows Asda’s recent ‘not for profit’ commitment on IVF drugs, which saved consumers up to £800 per cycle. For over a decade, Asda has lobbied on behalf of consumers to widen the availability of pharmacy services and products, which has successfully seen the demise of the Resale Price Maintenance (RPM), which allowed drug manufacturers to fix pharmacy prices artificially high.

The ‘not-for-profit’ commitment will be available in store from Monday May 24th, 2010.


Further Information:

Leah Watson 01132417828 or leah.watson@asda.co.uk
Anna Vickerstaff: 0203 003 6438 or anna.vickerstaff@freud.com
Edward Whitehead: 020 3003 6558 or edward.whitehead@freud.com

Cancer drug price comparison table

Tasigna, Glivec, Afinitor, Nexavarm Sutent, Iressa and Tarceva are among the most commonly privately prescribed cancer medications.


Product Treatment Asda Not for Profit price (cost price) Boots Independent Lloyds Sainsbury's Superdrug Tesco
Tasigna 200mg capsules (Novartis) Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia £2,432.85 £3,649.28
+ £1,216.43
Glivec 400mg (Novartis) Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia £1,604.08 £2045.20
Afinitor 5mg tablets (Novartis) Kidney Cancer £2,250.00 £2,868.75
Nexavar (Bayer) Kidney Cancer, Liver Cancer £2,980.47 £4,470.71
n/a £4,472.70
SUTENT 50mg (Pfizer) Kidney Cancer, Malignant gastro-intestinal stromal tumours £3,138.80 £4,001.97
Iressa (AstraZeneca) Lung Cancer £2,167.71 £3,251.57
Tarceva 150mg Tablets (Roche) Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer, Lung Cancer £1,631.53 £2,080.20


  •  Approximate prices (All prices correct at time of comparison: between 30th April and 5th May 2010)

Notes to Editors:

  1. A private prescription is a prescription that is funded entirely by the patient rather than the NHS.
  2. Research carried out through an Omnibus survey, Feb 18th 2010
  3. To find your nearest ASDA Pharmacy, visit ASDA’s store locator at: www.asda.co.uk or call 0500 1000 55
  4. The medication is available to order on a case by case basis. The decision to supply would rest with the supplier, who would need to ensure the patient was under the care of a competent physician who has experience with Anti-Cancer treatment before issuing.

About Asda Stores Ltd.

Founded in the 1960s, Asda today is one of Britain’s leading retailers. It has over 170,000 dedicated Asda colleagues serving customers from 374 stores, including 25 ASDA Living stores, 23 depots and eight recycling centres across the UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland). It has its main home office in Leeds, Yorkshire and its George clothing division based in Lutterworth Leicestershire. Asda serves over 18 million shoppers a week in store and its growing home shopping business serves over 97 per cent of UK homes.