Myriad Extends Patient Financial Assistance Program

On 7/15/2013, Myriad Genetics (MYGN) announced that it would offer financial assistance to the underinsured. It was also announced, on July 10, 2013, that the company had filed a suit against a competitor company, Ambry Genetics Corp., for infringing on ten of its patents surrounding its BRCA gene mutation testing services:

Recently, Myriad Genetics Inc. (MYGN) disclosed a financial assistance program for underinsured patients. Following the move, it seems like this molecular diagnostic company has left no stone unturned to improve adoption rates for its market-leading diagnostic tests.

Per the program, effective Jul 22, Myriad will offer financial assistance to ensure lower out-of-pocket costs for qualified uninsured patients. Accordingly, the patients will pay no more than $375 for Myriad’s expensive diagnostic test line.

The expanded financial support from Myriad applies to the company’s entire portfolio of diagnostic tests. Patient eligibility depends upon private insurance, ability to meet insurance’s coverage criteria for testing and low income requirements (households living within 200% of the Federal poverty level).

Source: Yahoo! Finance

NEW YORK (AP) — Myriad Genetics Inc. is suing a privately-held competitor to stop it from selling a genetic test that competes with Myriad’s BRACAnalysis breast and ovarian cancer test.

Myriad says Ambry Genetics Corp. is infringing on 10 patents held by Myriad and its partners. It said the patents cover primers, probes, tests, and methods of testing related to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad asked the court for a preliminary injunction blocking sales of any products that infringe on its patents.

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Though the first story is good for patients, the second story is actually good for the company. For some investors, it will be comforting to know that the company has other patents upon which it can defend its intellectual property. More importantly, however, is the first part of this story — the announcement of Myriad’s financial assistance program to the underinsured.

If there is one good thing that came from Myriad’s suit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) it would be the new look the suit forced Myriad to take at its charges for the BRCA testing services the company provides. Though Myriad still has a number of patents upon which it can stand to protect its ground breaking discoveries in the detection of risks associated with breast and ovarian cancers, the verdict handed down by the Supreme Court Justices would appear to have have forced company officials to rethink the amounts the company charges for its testing services.

Some time ago, I wrote an article for Seeking Alpha about a pharmaceutical company whose business hinged upon a drug that was designed to help patients who suffered from narcolepsy. In the article I urged investor caution because of the information I gathered at the time which led me to believe the company may have had reached a tipping point with regard to its charges for the drug. Though my intentions were to bring my concerns to the attention of potential investors who may not have been aware of the potential pitfalls, the article drew sharp criticism from a small group of people who were already invested in the company. One reader, in particular, accused me of being “lazy” for “[u]sing a company’s own 10k as a weapon to attack the company, you are just too lazy” he/she said. The reader went on to say: “If you [knew] anything about pharma ( I guess you do not), you [would] know [that a] single product is not the problem, IP is the key.” With regard to IP (i.e. Intellectual Property), the reader is correct — or, at least, should be correct.

There are some very brilliant people in this world who go on to do some amazing things — things that make all of our lives much richer — and they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and efforts. There are, however, two problems. First, whenever and wherever someone has a good idea there will always be others around looking to capitalize on that idea, whether by copying it or by outright stealing it. The second problem is that there are very valid reasons against the idea that one person, or a particular group of people, should own monopoly rights to good ideas. The first problem can be addressed through patents and patent laws; the second problem, however, is one that is much more difficult to address.

When it comes to issues surrounding those things that provide the “greatest good for society,” the U.S. legal system has had to grapple with balancing that which is good for the greatest number of people against that which does not squash human ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Though most courts realize that people need to be rewarded for their ideas and innovations, they also recognize the importance of doing what they must to ensure that those ideas to go on to benefit the greatest number of people in our society. In the case of Myriad Genetics, the Supreme Court recognized the importance of allowing Myriad to protect its intellectual property while, at the same time, attempting to open the door to competition. Since competition is the driving force to driving down costs to consumers, the courts (generally speaking) make attempts to promote competition while, at the same time,  not discouraging creativity and research. In Myriad’s case, the court may have, successfully, done both.

Absolution Through A Personal Experience

Now, I realize that there will be some people who will accuse me of shamefully promoting the services of a company whose stock I currently own. That said, let me try to absolve myself with a personal story.

For those who have been visiting my Web site and following my work, you already know that my wife recently underwent treatments for breast cancer. You may also recall that, with the help of Myriad Genetics, she learned that she was afflicted with the awful BRCA2 gene mutation. And, though I am angry with my maker for allowing such a kind and gentle soul to be afflicted with such a wickedly evil disease, I feel grateful for the people whose hard work and research may very well have saved her life. As was the case with Angelina Jolie, my wife, through the information provided to her by Myriad Genetics, was able to take prophylactic measures to extend — and to improve upon the quality of — her life. So, for me and my family, it is without hesitation that I can say that the services provided to us by Myriad Genetics were invaluable.

My wife’s mom, too, suffered from breast cancer some years ago. She had to endure two sets of surgeries and chemo treatments but, unlike her daughter, the results were not as good and she has suffered so much more emotionally. She once told me that, if she were to ever again be afflicted with cancer, she would not opt to undergo any more surgery or treatments. It was very sad for me to hear those words knowing that she has four young grandchildren who love her and who would wish to have her around for them in the future.

After my wife’s BRCA2 diagnosis, we tried to encourage my mother-in-law to have herself tested for the BRCA gene mutations but she declined, arguing that the tests were too expensive. What she does not realize, however, is that, now knowing that her daughter has the BRCA2 gene mutation, Medicare will, most likely, pay to have the tests performed. Though, for my mom-through-marriage, the truth may be something more than testing costs, the message I really wish to convey here — to everyone — is that your life is too important to you, and to those around you, to not be tested. If you are a person who has a history of cancer in your family then, please, call your doctor and ask to have the test performed. If costs are an issue to you then go and explore alternative options — because options are available. Though, as my mother-in-law has said, we all must die from something, that “something” does not, necessarily, have to be cancer (at least not breast or ovarian cancers).

This past Monday my wife went in for her third, and what I hope and pray will be her last, cancer related surgery. Following a surgery for an unrelated problem, her gynecologist told me that she thought the decision my wife made to have an oophorectomy performed was one that was not only brave but very wise; because, as she put it: “Ovarian cancer is no way for a person to die. It is slow and very painful.” If you feel that you may be at risk of breast or ovarian cancers, please don’t wait — go out and get tested!

For those who wish to learn more about my wife’s story, her experiences, and the information she gleaned from those experiences, please visit: MyCancerStory.net.

For more on Myriad’s Financial Assistance Program, please click the links below.

Myriad Financial Assistance Program

Beginning July 22, 2013, Myriad will offer financial assistance to reduce qualified underinsured patients’ out-of-pocket cost to no more than $375. To be eligible, patients must have private insurance, meet their insurance’s coverage criteria for testing, and meet low income requirements (household incomes up to 200 percent of the Federal poverty level). This expansion of Myriad’s financial assistance program to underinsured patients complements the free testing Myriad currently offers for low income uninsured patients.

Myriad offers testing at no charge to uninsured patients that meet specific financial and medical criteria. Due to regulatory limitations, patients who are recipients of government funded programs (ie, Medicaid, Medicare).

Qualification requirements and the submission instructions are provided below:

Myriad Financial Assistance Application Aplicación En Espanol
Medical Criteria
Financial Criteria

To view the current HHS financial guidelines, please view the link below. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/index.shtml

Disclosure: I own shares of MYGN, both, directly and indirectly through the Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI) ETF.

Disclaimer: The content on this site is provided for general educational and informational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content, including advertisements, shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial instrument, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of sponsors or firms affiliated with the author. Any action taken by you as a result of information, analysis, or advertisement provided on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

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