I don’t usually agree with Michael Crichton but he does have a point about patenting genes.
“Gene patents are now used to halt research, prevent medical testing and keep vital information from you and your doctor. Gene patents slow the pace of medical advance on deadly diseases. And they raise costs exorbitantly: a test for breast cancer that could be done for $1,000 now costs $3,000.”
It’s not too much of a jump to raise the issue of patents in pharmaceuticals. Drug patents have become a tool of monopolists. For a generation (20 years) one company has the franchise for the patented drug. It matters not whether the drug is a minor new agent or one that saves lives. The company can charge whatever it wishes, even exceeding the median and average incomes of U.S. citizens in cost/year. This happens quite frequently with medications developed for life threatening conditions. The cost has almost nothing to do with development and production costs, rather it’s price seems to be based on the desperation of the patient. The theory appears to be the more desperate you are, the more you’ll pay–a little like blackmail.