Myriad ups patient assistance as it sues cheaper rivals

A week after filing patent lawsuits against two competitors that offer cancer tests at a lower price, Myriad Genetics ($MYGN) has launched a new financial assistance program for patients, promising to reduce out-of-pocket costs for many underinsured to no more than $375.

Under Myriad's program, which kicks off July 22, the company will assist patients who have private insurance, meet coverage criteria for BRCA testing and make up to twice the federal poverty guidelines, set at $23,550 for a family of four this year. The program is an expansion of Myriad's existing assistance system, which offers free testing to qualifying low-income patients who don't have insurance.

Meanwhile, Myriad is in the midst of patent-infringement lawsuits against Gene By Gene and Ambry Genetics, two firms that launched cheaper BRCA tests of their own after the Supreme Court invalidated a handful of Myriad's gene patents in June.

Gene By Gene, which trumpeted its BRCA analysis just hours after the court's ruling, marketed its cancer test at $995, far below the $3,340 cost of a Myriad assay. Now Myriad is looking to bar both of its competitors from offering BRCA analysis, arguing they've violated the company's patents with their testing procedures, citing claims untouched by the high court.

In both cases, Myriad seeks an injunction on BRCA test sales from both companies and a jury trial in which it will plead for damages and royalties.

As it fights against rivals looking to undercut a long-time cash cow, Myriad has tendered something of a peace offering to the rest of the industry. Last week, the company released a "pledge to our patients and the research community," promising not to impede noncommercial research using its patents, not to interfere with labs conducting confirmatory assays for Myriad's tests and to offer financial assistance programs to patients in need of BRCA analysis.

The latest expansion of that assistance is Myriad's recognition of the roughly 30 million underinsured Americans who may currently struggle to pay for life-saving cancer diagnostics, CEO Peter Meldrum said.

"We want to ensure that those with the greatest financial need have access to our diagnostic tests, and this new component of our financial assistance program will make that possible," Meldrum said in a statement. "A lack of financial resources should not be an impediment to quality healthcare."

- read Myriad's statement

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