Monday, July 30, 2012

BRCA Gene Case: Ethics Vs. Profits

Hello Everyone,

This case has been going on for as long as I've been involved with UAEM, and it is slowly gaining more and more public appeal. Recently Ethan Guillen (former UAEM Executive Director) sent a link to the chapters email listserv with a blog that has been following the case intently and has lots of updates. Here is a short summary (I do regret that I have not read a lot of the blogposts).

Myriad (biotech) bought the rights of the discovery of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes, and patented their own test for their presence. The test is highly conclusive and can give physicians an insight into breast cancer cases extremely early on. The problem: they hold exclusive rights over the test AND the genes. This means that only Myriad can perform the tests (and there have been people sued for trying to duplicate it) and only Myriad can develop new tests, since they literally own the gene. Now, there have been cases that have reached the supreme court in which discoveries similar to these genes have been deemed unpatentable (unfortunately my mind is slipping on the name of the case).

Basically to make the story short, the case is very much active. It seemed that courts were really ruling in the direction of ethics, deeming the patents not valid, until it reached an upper level appeals court, which deemed them valid under patent law. The hope is that the supreme court will see the case and rule on the side of humanity over profits, but we'll all have to watch.

Meanwhile, here's the link to the blog: