High Court Strikes Down Patents On Breast And Ovarian Cancer Genes

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to invalidate a Utah company’s long-held patents on genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer is expected to result in the test being more accessible to women, at a lower cost, experts say. The court’s 9-0 decision comes four years after the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 20 named plaintiffs, including Ellen Matloff, director, Cancer Genetic Counseling at the Yale Cancer Center, filed a lawsuit charging that the patents held by Myriad Genetics of Utah on the DNA of two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, is unconstitutional and should be ruled invalid. The lawsuit also challenged Myriad’s right to set prices on their exclusive testing that critics said “locked out” some women from affording the life-saving test, which costs about $3,450. “I am thrilled with the decision.  I think it’s been inhumane for one company to make the call on how much these important tests will cost,’’ said Marya DiPerna, of Naugatuck, whose own BRACAnalysis genetic test was negative a year ago.  The patent “made it unavailable to those whose insurance won’t pay for it and who cannot personally otherwise afford it,’’ added DiPerna, who applauded the decision. “I was lucky that my husband’s insurance covered the cost because my sister, a deployed Marine’s wife, had breast cancer.  She had to fight for her test while she was sick and at first, she was denied,’’ added DiPerna.  Her sister could not afford to pay for the test while she was in treatment and raising her children alone as a military mom.

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Is Myriad’s Patent On Breast Cancer Genes Valid?

As Myriad Genetic Laboratories nears its one millionth predictive genetic test for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, the cost of the test has more than doubled, and the company’s 15-year patent monopoly is being challenged by critics who contend it is stymieing other potentially life-saving screening.

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