Friday, May 21, 2010

Buyer Beware: Over the Counter DNA Tests Can Cause More Harm Than Good

There's a huge push to market over-the-counter genetic tests. But the faulty tests can cause more harm than good.

Coming-of-age movies set in the 1950s and '60s sometimes show a teenage boy in a drugstore asking for a Coke, comic book, condom and candy, hoping the stern pharmacist won't notice. And in the 1980s women still needed a doctor for a pregnancy test or anti-yeast preparation like Monistat.

But today, even as direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC) exhorts people to tell their doctor what they need (on the basis of the medical school they attended called TV), other products are starting to bypass the doc altogether.

Claritin, one of the first drugs sold DTC, graduated to over-the-counter sales a few years ago along with its allergy drug cousins Zyrtec and Benadryl which also once required a prescription. Home tests for blood sugar, cholesterol, urinary tract infections, HIV and illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana are now commonplace.  And then there's the at-home DNA tests Walgreen's almost marketed last week. 

San Diego-based Pathway Genomics Corporation planned to place the Insight Saliva Collection Kits in 6,000 Walgreen stores until the FDA said, "You're selling WHAT?" and it put its plans on hold. The $20-$30 genetic testing kits --  essentially containers for saliva that customers mail in for analysis at Pathway's labs -- would predict someone's risk of diseases, chance of transmitting health problems to offspring and reaction to prescription drugs. The company, which was incorporated in 2008, also markets ancestral DNA tests. Read more.

SOURCE: AlterNet

The idea that the bio-tech companies can then use your genetic information for future use and substantial profit gain without your consent should be a vital concern to everyone.