AMA Wire

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This Week's News

Supreme Court voids human gene patents; AMA applauds decision

Supreme Court voids human gene patents; AMA applauds decision

In a ruling last week that has tremendous implications for patient care, the Supreme Court of the United States found that naturally occurring human genes are ineligible for patenting.

The court held in its unanimous opinion that a "naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," opening the door for labs across the country to move forward with potentially life-saving genetic testing.

"The U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous rejection of patenting human genes is a clear victory for patients that will expand medical discovery and preserve access to innovative diagnosis and treatment options," AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, said in a news release.

In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the petitioners argued that Myriad Genetics' patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which can be examined to determine whether a woman is at increased risk for breast or ovarian cancers, were invalid because the genes are products of nature.

The AMA, which long has advocated for prohibition of patents on human genes, joined with other health care organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of an earlier federal court ruling that struck down the Utah-based company's patents.

"Removing the patents on the building blocks of life ensures that scientific discovery and medical care based on insights into human DNA will remain freely accessible and widely disseminated, not hidden behind a vast thicket of exclusive rights," Dr. Lazarus said.

Read more about the case in an online summary of patent cases in which the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies has been involved.