Over-the-counter genetic tests launch in the US

11 May 2010

A US genetic testing company has announced that it is to sell kits in a national chain of pharmacies across the US from 14th May, with the exception of New York state where legal restrictions exist (see previous news). These types of shop already sell a range of over-the-counter testing kits, such as pregnancy and cholesterol tests. DNA-based paternity tests are reportedly already available over-the-counter in the US (see New York Times article).

Previous suggestion that over-the-counter genetic testing via high street shops is likely to become increasingly common is supported by this new move. The saliva collection kits will cost US$20-30, and include postage-paid envelope for sending to the provider for any or all of three types of genetic testing: drug responses, pre-pregnancy planning and ‘health conditions’ (see press release), for a cost of up to $249.

The health conditions test offers identification of genetic markers that indicate risk for adverse health conditions, including Type 1 & 2 Diabetes, breast cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, prostate cancer and many more’, with the option to receive updates based on emerging science, although the website does note that ‘some markers have been researched more thoroughly than others’, a possible caveat that the actual health risk information provided by such testing can be highly limited. The pre-pregnancy planning test offers testing for carrier status for a range of rare inherited diseases, and is said to be suitable for people with a family history of genetic disorders or from ethnic groups at increased risk of specific diseases (for example, Tay Sachs disease among Ashkenazi Jews).

The inclusion of drug response testing in a direct-to-consumer kit is in line with recent recommendations (see previous news), although the number of drugs covered in this particular offering is limited, including predicted responses to warfarin (used to treat blood clots), tamoxifen (for selected breast cancers) and abacavir (for HIV infections).

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