Myriad and the Cost of Genetic Testing

21Dec09

If you are in the U.S., the only place where you can legally get genetic testing for BRCA mutations is Myriad Genetics. Myriad owns the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The current list cost of the comprehensive test is $3120 USD. (No idea if that includes taxes and other fees.) While some insurance companies will cover testing, not all do. No need to mention that many people in the U.S. do not have insurance.

Well, you would think that the cost of testing from Myriad has been going down as genetic research becomes more advanced and more automated. In fact, doctors say it has been going up. Check out the look on Myriad’s founder, Mark Skolnick, when he was asked about pricing in this video clip from In the Family:

How much cheaper would BRCA testing be if there was competition? Some researchers believed they could have developed a test to identify mutations in BRCA1 for as little as $10 USDin 1999. Hmm… no wonder why Myriad’s founder looked so embarrassed.

Now if this isn’t bizarre enough: Complete Genomics is said to be offering the entire sequencing of a human genome for $4000. That means technically researchers could use this service not only find mutations in a person’s BRCA1/2 genes but also all other genes.

I am still trying to wrap my head around what a gene patent means and how Myriad, in particular, has applied their patents. I don’t want to rush to say that everything Myriad has done is wrong. But I find this pricing “discrepancy” to be something that warrants further discussion. There will definitely be more posts on this topic in the future.

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One Response to “Myriad and the Cost of Genetic Testing”

  1. I found another article—this one is from 2009—which discusses a test for the three founder mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish population (BRCA1 185delAG, BRCA1 5382insC, and BRCA2 6174delT). The test has a one-week turn around, uses saliva instead of blood, and costs about $10 USD. A test covering the same mutations from Myriad costs $535.


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