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America’s Supreme Court Wallops the Biotech Industry

America’s Supreme Court Wallops the Biotech Industry – 24 March 2012
PATENTS are supposed to encourage innovation, not stifle it. On March 20th America’s Supreme Court threw out two medical patents for doing the latter. The ruling in Mayo v Prometheus was unequivocal. So was the horrified reaction from the biotechnology industry. Prometheus, a subsidiary of Nestlé, had patented a test to determine the correct dose of thiopurines, drugs that have long been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Thiopurines’ effect depends on how each patient processes the drug. Prometheus patented a way to determine the best dose for a given patient: concentrations of certain chemicals in the blood should be within a range, high enough to work but low enough to be safe. It sells its test to hospitals, including the prestigious Mayo Clinic. In 2004 Mayo developed a competing test with a different recommended range. Prometheus sued.

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