The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will consider a lawsuit challenging patents on the genes that cause breast cancer.
Patenting treatments and medications is one thing, but patenting the very cells that inhabit our bodies is way out of line and definitely violates our constitutional rights.
But that's exactly what Myriad Genetics has done with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes -- two genes that cause breast cancer. And these patents give the company the exclusive right to research the genes and test patients for whether they have the genes.
Not only does this make the tests more expensive for patients by eliminating competition, it also limits research to the detriment of women who have or could have breast cancer. That is just wrong.
Take the case of Lisbeth Ceriani, a breast cancer survivor and plaintiff in the case. She was faced with having to pay over $4,000 for Myriad’s testing to determine if she carried a genetic mutation associated with hereditary ovarian cancer because Myriad had refused to enter into a contract with her insurance company. She was forced to wait 18 months before she was able to obtain the test through a grant, at which point she learned she did indeed carry a mutation.
“Women should not have to go through what I went through in order to take care of themselves and continue to take care of their families,” said Ceriani. “My genes belong to me. Knowledge about my own body should not be held hostage by a corporation.”
That's why the ACLU joined with the plaintiffs and the Public Patent Foundation to challenge the patents. We originally won in federal court, then lost in federal appeals court. Now the Supreme Court will decide.