Angelina Jolie carries a faulty gene......BRCA1.....a gene that increases her risk of developing breast cancer by 87 percent and of ovarian cancer by 50 percent. This made her take the decision to undergo double mastectomy.
For the uninitiated mastectomy refers to the procedure of removing breast. In simple terms.....Angelina Jolie got both her breasts removed to save herself from cancer. Devastating as it may sound.....but this decision just might save her life.
Now a simple question is.....how can she be sure that she does have such a high risk for cancer.....well....we are told the BRCA gene analysis test can tell you so. But as Angelina puts it....the test is too expensive....making it out of reach for most women. 3000 dollars or about sixteen and half lakh rupees.........the cost is not the only factor....since an American biotech company hold the patent for the two genes that increase risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
In India......this kind of testing might not be a reality for a long time as there is still a legal battle being raged in the American Supreme Court against these patents.
So while Mrs Pitt has a safer future and has done her bit in increasing awareness about this gene......we have to do our bit to increase awareness about the artificially created high cost and unavailability of a test that could save millions of lives.
The debate of patents is ages old.....the companies say if they don't have patents.....they don't make profits.....that means no R and D ( research and development)......that means no new drugs. Where as critics of patents claim that these companies push up the costs and make them out of reach for the masses and also the patents hamper further scientific research by other entities.
A recent Supreme Court ruling in India denied Novartis patent on a new version of a cancer drug. The company had made some minor changes that the SC didn't see as innovation and refused patent. Thus allowing many companies to produce cheaper copies of the drug.
Angelina's story has once more made the patent debate more obvious.......made me question at least. Is medical innovation only for those who can pay for it.......why does Angelina get to play with her 10 or 20 adopted kids while some mother in Africa is putting up her kids for adoption because she is dying of cancer.