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Gene Patents, Angelina Jolie, and Reality

May 21, 2013
By Dr. Hans Sauer, J.D., Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property, Biotechnology Industry Organization 

Angelina Jolie recently announced her personal connection with breast cancer and Myriad’s BRCA genetic test.  While Jolie’s post was a commendable personal account of the real world impact of breast cancer and the real world impact of developments in healthcare technology, a few less informed individuals have tried to take advantage of this recent announcement from stardom and spread misinformation.  Let’s remind everyone of the facts.

Insurance coverage and availability of BRCA testing in the United States is the highest in the developed world. More women get tested here than anywhere else. Test results are returned in 2-4 weeks. In Europe it takes 4-8 months, if you can get the test. If a new mutation is detected, U.S patients get free testing for family members. Patients routinely receive additional follow-up letters when new information about particular mutations later becomes available. None of that happens in Canada or Europe. The test price for BRCA testing in the U.S. is the same as for comparable genetic tests. In Europe, where dozens of labs “compete” for BRCA testing, the prices are even higher! Patients who need genetic testing are better off in the United States than anywhere else. It doesn’t look like our patent system has interfered with that.

More information on the pricing, quality, turn-around time, and access issues concerning the Myriad test.

More information on gene patent myths.