This should make the nation’s doctors extremely nervous. For two decades, the software industry has struggled with the harmful effects of patents on software. In contrast, doctors have traditionally been free to practice medicine without worrying about whether their treatment decisions run afoul of someone’s patent. Now the Supreme Court seems poised to expand patent law into the medical profession, where it’s unlikely to work any better than it has in software.
The patent does not cover the drugs themselves—those patents expired years ago—nor does it cover any specific machine or procedure for measuring the metabolite level. Rather, it covers the idea that particular levels of the chemical “indicate a need” to raise or lower the drug dosage.
So, apparently, it’s ok to patent an observation of how the human body works, and prevent other doctors from merely being aware of this observation as a part of their informed decision-making. Basically, if you treat you patients in a way that suggests you’re aware of this observation (which is you basic moral duty as a doctor), you’re violating the patent.