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Need to know may drive predictive disease testing

Report of a story in the news   |   By Rebecca Bazeley   |   Published 21 January 2011

Sources: Health Economics, JustMeans

Research undertaken in the US suggests people  are willing to pay for predictive tests for their risk of developing certain diseases, even where there is no prevention or cure available.

 Research undertaken in the US suggests people  are willing to pay for predictive tests for their risk of developing certain diseases, even where there is no prevention or cure available.

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center devised an imaginary situation in which almost 1500 participants were told they had a 10 or 25% risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, breast cancer or prostate cancer, and then asked whether they would pay for a predictive test. They found that respondents would be willing to pay an average of between US$320 and $622 for a test, depending on the disease, their risk estimate, and the reliability of the test. Overall levels of willingness to have predictive testing were high, ranging from 70% to 88%.A positive test would reportedly be likely to prompt re-evaluation of priorities, with respondents saying they would spend more time with their families, sort out their personal finances or maybe even travel more.

Comment:

The survey suggested that in theory people were surprisingly willing to not only undergo but also pay for predictive disease testing for serious adult-onset conditions. One possible flaw is that most people are aware that for some of the diseases in question there are preventative and treatment options (e.g. for breast cancer); however, the majority said they favoured prediction even for Alzheimer’s disease.One motivation cited for testing was reassurance, suggesting respondents expected a negative result. Of course, there are in practice very few perfectly predictive tests, even for genetic diseases, so that providers offering tests for serious diseases should ensure that people have access to robust pre-test counselling that sets out the full implications of a positive result. Of interest, most respondents also reported they would share information with families and did not seem to be concerned with where their testing data went.

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