Asda is to sell privately prescribed cancer treatment drugs on a not-for-profit basis from Monday.

In a first for the supermarket sector, Asda will sell drugs such as Iressa, used to treat lung cancer, for £2,167.71 which it said compares to £2,601.25 at Lloyds Pharmacy, £3,251.57 at Boots and £3,253.56 at Superdrug.

Research compiled by 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 it said it found mark ups of up to 76%.

John Evans, superintend­ent pharmacist at Asda, said: “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 is also working with suppliers to negotiate further discounts on the trade price of privately prescribed drugs, with any savings to be passed directly onto the customers.

Asda chief executive Andy Clarke said:  “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 our pharmacy team is doing to lower prices.”