Gene Meme

  • by: |
  • 06/14/2013

The big news is the Supreme verdict that human genes cannot be patented.

And it was unanimous.

Is the decision good for patients – and what that does that mean? Does it mean prices (now driven by competition) will decrease? Does it mean that tests (being developed by multiple companies) will become more accurate? Does it mean payers will see the light?

Will “open genes” help or hinder innovation? Well, on the one hand, more companies (at least in theory) will be able to develop new products. But will lower profit margins, without patentable genes, be attractive to investors? Will competition drive tests that are “better” (more accurate, faster, etc.)? Or will it result in “me-too” tests at parity pricing. (Think “statins.”)

Will it increase patient access? Just as with generic drugs, competition will drive down costs. But by how much? Competition isn’t likely to result in plummeting prices. After all, process patents are still vey much alive.

Perhaps the most relevant question is whether or not the Court’s decision will in some way influence how payers view such tests.  And then there's the issue of how they are regulated.

And, speaking of ever-greening -- there’s the interesting question of plant-derived medicines. Are natural compounds next?

This is not the end of the discussion. Nor is it the beginning of the end. It is, however, the end of the beginning.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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