By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
NHS doctors are in trouble for over use of diagnostic genetic tests as these infringe upon patents. The British law now recognizes patents on the application of DNA discoveries. But doctors developing genetic tests in NHS hospitals tend to pay no heed to intellectual property.
The Human Genetics Commission (HGC), an independent group that advises the U.K. government, issued a plea to health and research institutions to develop a coherent policy on intellectual property, particularly patents on diagnostic tools. The message came in a new report, “Intellectual Property and DNA Diagnostics”.
According to Dr Michael Hopkins, an expert in science and technology policy at the University of Sussex, “The fact that they have not been enforced in the UK so far is that generally the amounts of money have been small and many companies shy away from suing hospitals. But as the sums of money increase it's more likely companies will assert their intellectual property rights.”
Gail Norbury, consultant clinical scientist at Guy's Hospital in London, maintained that gene patents for medical diagnoses were “unacceptable and unenforceable”. “People will find ways around having to pay the patent…It will be a cat and mouse game. The only people who benefit are the lawyers,” she said.