Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes?

May 18, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A recent medical patent lawsuit is raising a groundswell of provocative and important legal, ethical and moral issues, questioning the right of corporations to own patents on human DNA, with medical researchers and public interest groups calling for at the very least, public oversight into issuing such patents, if not outright banning the practice.

A monumental battle has been brewing for the last several years between Myriad Genetics, a Utah based genetic testing company that owns patents on two human genes, responsible for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, and other research institutions that have been hit with unprecedented cease and desist orders by Myriad, after attempting to conduct medical research on the two human genes.

The battle has now reached a fevered pitch culminating in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU against Myriad and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, alleging Myriad’s patents violate constitutional rights of free speech, by suppressing medical research.

Although, the awarding of patents for human genes has been legally permitted since the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, since that time, drug companies have alarmingly obtained patents on nearly 20 percent of all human genes. Most companies owning the patents however, have freely granted licenses at a nominal cost to research institutions, in the spirit of furthering medical science and it has not been much of an issue, until now.

Even if Myriad does grant a license to perform research on the two genes, it refuses to allow the researchers to inform patients of testing results, forcing patients in clinical settings to pay $3,000 for duplicate testing from Myriad.

Myriad Genetics owns seven separate patents on two genes, named BRCA1 and BRCA2, granting the company sole legal rights to administer tests and do research on the genes and has aggressively pursued its intellectual property rights, threatening to sue any institution that attempts to perform research on the two genes.

And to make matters worse, the U.S. is one of the very few developed countries not allowing a “research exemption” in the case of patent infringement claims.

Myriad has issued cease and desist orders to numerous important institutions of medical research, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University. And critics of Myriad’s practices say it all comes down to corporate greed.

Since it owns the two genes, it retains a monopoly on all testing of the genes to determine if women have genetic markers for breast and ovarian cancer. Women who have a family history of the two types of cancer can only obtain the diagnostic cancer test through Myriad for a fee of $3,000, which is usually not covered by insurance.

One of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, Lisbeth Ceriani, a single mother from Massachusetts diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2008; was denied the diagnostic cancer test, because Myriad won’t accept Massachusetts’ Medicaid insurance plan. Without coming up with $3,000, woman like Ceriani have no other recourse.

The medical research community doesn’t begrudge Myriad from recouping some of its research and development costs, but questions the medical ethics of a company gauging cancer patients for a test of their own genes. Low-income patients are being denied proper care, the lawsuit claims, because of Myriad’s monopoly and restrictive pricing of its genetic test of the two patented genes.

The ACLU lawsuit is representing a huge class of plaintiffs, including cancer patients, more than 100,000 doctors and researchers, and the Public Patent Foundation.

The lawsuit is pitting the interests of institutions conducting genetic research on human genes to discover new treatments and save lives, against the purely financial interests of Myriad, which is seen as exploitation of vulnerable cancer patients and extracting exorbitant profits, denying average people from benefiting from its patented tests.

The ACLU’s lawsuit is seeking to not only remove the two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 from Myriad’s control, but is also challenging the very legal foundation that allows corporations to own a patent on human genetic material.

The eventual ruling in the lawsuit against Myriad, which may take years, has serious implications for the direction of future genetic research and testing, and the legality and morality of allowing a corporation to own part of the human body.

Myriad’s attorney, Richard Marsh, said that the company plans to “vigorously defend our intellectual property rights.”

Source


Comments

6 Responses to “Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes?”

  1. Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes? | Property | Properties on May 18th, 2009 2:42 pm

    […] Read more from the original source:  Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes? […]

  2. Valuable Internet Information » Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes … on May 18th, 2009 4:42 pm

    […] Original post: Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes … […]

  3. Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes? | cancer research on May 18th, 2009 7:24 pm

    […] See the original post here: Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes? […]

  4. Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes … « Patents on May 19th, 2009 9:24 am

    […] View­ o­­rig­ina­l­ po­­s­t here:  Sh­ou­l­d Dru­g C­omp­an­­ie­s be­ Al­l­… […]

  5. Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes? | ChattahBox News Blog | Life Sciences Blog on May 19th, 2009 7:05 pm

    […] to Own Patents on Human Genes?Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes?…Read the Full Story Related posts:Law.com – Lawsuit Looks to Take Down Patents on Human GenesHow human genes become […]

  6. Article Museum » Blog Archive » Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes … on August 13th, 2009 5:38 pm

    […] the original here:  Should Drug Companies be Allowed to Own Patents on Human Genes …   0 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized, tagged: allowed, companies, health, home, […]

Got something to say? **Please Note** - Comments may be edited for clarity or obscenity, and all comments are published at the discretion of ChattahBox.com - Comments are the opinions of the individuals leaving them, and not of ChattahBox.com or its partners. - Please do not spam or submit comments that use copyright materials, hearsay or are based on reports where the supposed fact or quote is not a matter of public knowledge are also not permitted.