Nov 04, 2014

By Jane Brown

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A legal decision will affect the right to life-saving therapy in this country.  A legal challenge has been filed by an Ottawa hospital which is questioning the notion that human genes can be patented.

The claim has been filed in federal court by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.  It deals with five patents on gene sequences and tests for an inherited cardiac condition called Long QT syndrome.  The disorder causes chaotic heart beats and can lead to fainting, seizures and sudden death.  It is treatable, but the rights to the test involved in diagnosis are held exclusively by U.S. labs.  Administrators at the Children’s Hospital say the necessary screening could be performed in house for approximately half of the current $4500 (U.S.) cost associated with sending patients’ blood samples stateside.

The lawsuit also claims that invalidating the patents would allow the Ottawa hospital to build the first repository in Canada of genetic information on Long QT syndrome, which would in turn improve diagnosis and treatment.

The U.S. labs have forty days to respond to the suit, but the case could take a year or longer to reach trial.

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