A friend of mine sent me this op-ed piece by Michael Crichton. It discusses the ridiculous practice of awarding patents for medical diagnosis, parts of the human genome, and the thoughts and ideas that surround them.
Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.Unbelievable! Crichton continues…
Actually, I can't make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient's test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.
The question of whether basic truths of nature can be owned ought not to be confused with concerns about how we pay for biotech development, whether we will have drugs in the future, and so on. If you invent a new test, you may patent it and sell it for as much as you can, if that's your goal. Companies can certainly own a test they have invented. But they should not own the disease itself, or the gene that causes the disease, or essential underlying facts about the disease. The distinction is not difficult, even though patent lawyers attempt to blur it. And even if correlation patents have been granted, the overwhelming majority of medical correlations, including those listed above, are not owned. And shouldn't be.Agreed, this is just one of the many things that is wrong with our health care system, and it needs to stop. Check out the rest of the editorial, it is quite fascinating.
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