The consequence of patents on BRCA genes

Editor’s Note: The Supreme Court is currently determining if human genes can be patented. Myriad owns or licenses two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. If you need BRCA1 or BRCA2 testing you will be dealing with Mryiad. The Supreme Court ruling is expected in June 2013.

Sue Friedman, founder and executive director of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), says the decision is critically important for anyone who is concerned with hereditary disease.

“The Myriad case is just one example of how exclusive patents on genes can hurt consumers,” says Friedman in this guest post for Johns Hopkins University Press. “Gene patents are a universal issue that ultimately affects all of us. Even if hereditary cancer does not run in your family, chances are that you have inherited a genetic predisposition to some disease. Imagine if a company were given exclusive control over all testing and research for a disease that runs in your family…”

Johns Hopkins University Press Blog

Guest post by Sue Friedman

On April 15, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRCA genes, which are associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, should be upheld. This case culminates a four-year legal tug-of-war between Myriad Genetics & Laboratories and a long list of individual, advocacy, and health care professional groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) . The plaintiffs agree that regulations allowing exclusive gene patents negatively affect access to care and research.

I was fortunate when I was first tested for a BRCA mutation in 1998: my testing costs were covered by my health insurance. Although I was initially tested without genetic counseling, I eventually went to a large cancer center for a second opinion, met with a genetics expert, and gained access to up-to-date, credible information. It wasn’t until I started FORCE  (Facing Our Risk of Cancer…

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