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Cost of Genetic Testing for BRCA 1 & 2 Drops
One year ago, Angelina Jolie shined a spotlight on breast cancer and genetic testing. Since then, the Supreme Court ruled you can't patent a gene, a decision patient advocates say has driven down the cost of testing for BRCA 1 and 2. An Austin woman was behind the ruling.
When Paige Wilson learned she has breast cancer in March, she had trouble making sense of it. "It was just shocking to me," said Wilson, "I always felt like okay. I'm healthy, I'm young."
Doctors gave her two treatment options, a lumpectomy to remove the cancer or a mastectomy to remove her breast.
"I really wanted the genetic testing to confirm what kind of surgery I was going to do since I was a candidate for the lumpectomy," said Wilson, "If it came back positive, there's my answer."
Wilson underwent the testing for BRCA 1 & 2 mutations to see if she had an increased risk of getting cancer again. "Then I got a call from Myriad telling me that my insurance didn't cover it and it was $4,000," said Wilson.
Runi Limary, a patient navigator at the Breast Cancer Resource Center in Austin, says the same thing happened to her. "The reason why I wanted to be involved in this case was because it touched me personally."
Three years after her mastectomy, Limary could finally afford it. "Even with my insurance I still had to pay $1,200."
Limary immediately started researching the test. "I learned later on that Myriad they actually have the patent over the genetic mutation, BRCA1 and BRCA2, so no other companies are able to do testing on it," said Limary. "That's why the price can be a lot more expensive."
"I don't know how you patent a gene," said Wilson. A landmark Supreme Court decision agreed, ruling:
A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.
After the decision, several companies launched competing tests. This gave Wilson more options. She called Ambry Genetics for an estimate, "Told me that they had just dropped their prices and my $4,000 test with them was going to be $1,200," said Wilson.
"People didn't realize how expensive this test was or that you can patent a gene," said Limary. "So many people didn't realize that and it's not just this mutation, there's many other genes out there that many other companies are patenting."
A spokesperson for Myriad Genetics tells us for the vast majority of people, the test should not cost more than $92. If you have a new insurance plan that began on or after August 1, 2012, The Affordable Care Act requires coverage.