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AMA Welcomes Groundbreaking Court Decision Reining in Gene Patents

For immediate release:
March 30, 2010

Statement attributable to:
J. James Rohack, MD
President, American Medical Association

“The recent Federal Circuit court decision to invalidate patents on genes linked to breast cancer is a clear legal victory that prevents overly broad medical patents from harming patients’ access to care.

“Physicians should not be stifled in what care they can provide because a part of human biology has been patented. Medical discoveries that provide insight into natural human biology must remain available to all and exclusive to none.

“By staking claims on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, Myriad Genetics exclusively controlled the use of these breast cancer genes when isolated from the human body. These patents gave Myriad a broad monopoly that hampered scientific discovery and medical care.

“As the court noted in its decision, the practice of granting gene patents based on isolating DNA from the body is a lawyer's trick that circumvents prohibitions on the direct patenting of DNA. The court correctly held that Myriad’s gene patents were invalid because the company had not invented a unique DNA sequence, the company had only removed DNA that naturally exists in the body.

“The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies joined with other health care organizations in an amicus brief in this groundbreaking case supporting the position that the patents should be invalidated. The brief argued that the patents were overly broad and extended to unpatentable products of nature, not discoveries of man.”

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Robert J. Mills
AMA Media Relations
(312) 464-5970