Monday, November 26, 2007
The New York Times reports on the spread on genetic testing to your local drugstore. It reports,
Genetic testing is now available at the drugstore. A company called Sorenson Genomics has started selling a paternity test kit through Rite Aid stores in California, Oregon and Washington. It appears to be the first time a DNA test is being sold through a major pharmacy chain. The move into the pharmacy is another in the spread of genetic testing directly to consumers. Many genetic tests, for health and diet advice, ancestry and paternity, are already available directly to consumers through the Internet. But Sorenson hopes the corner drugstore will appeal to different customers, including those who do not want to wait three or five days for a kit to arrive in the mail after ordering it over the Internet. . . .
The test, sold under the brand name Identigene, has a suggested list price of $29.99, though a reporter purchased one at a Rite Aid in Santa Monica, Calif., for $19.99. There is an additional laboratory fee of $119 to have the samples analyzed.
The spread of genetic testing directly to consumers has alarmed some doctors and genetic counselors, who said some tests were not valid or that consumers might not be able to understand the results without counseling. Myriad Genetics recently caused some controversy by advertising its test for breast cancer risk directly to women in the Northeast. And the Government Accountability Office, among others, has criticized a plethora of tests now available for advising on health risks and recommending diet and lifestyle changes. “Just because something’s available does not mean it’s safe or effective or worth your money,” said Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University. She said most genetic tests available directly to consumers had not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.
Still, drugstores already sell various non-DNA diagnostic tests, including those for pregnancy, drug use, cholesterol, blood sugar and H.I.V. When some of these were introduced there was also controversy about whether consumers could perform the tests or understand the results themselves. The results of a paternity test, unlike some of the medical tests, are pretty easy to understand.
The box contains three sets of cotton swabs to collect cheek samples from the child, the alleged father and the mother. (The mother is optional but helps strengthen the results, the company says.) The swabs are put into separate packets and mailed to Sorenson’s laboratory in Salt Lake City. Results are provided by mail, fax or on a password-protected Web site within five days of the laboratory receiving the samples.
Sorenson said the test was for peace of mind and that the results would probably not stand up in court because questions could be raised about whose samples were submitted. The kit advises people wanting to test for legal purposes to call the company and set up a chain of custody for the samples, which would cost an additional $200.
At least one other genetic test is sold in a drugstore. Sciona sells a $269 service that provides dietary advice based on genetic analysis through Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, a chain of 19 stores mainly in California and Colorado. Rosalynn Gill, chief science officer of Sciona, said that Pharmaca, unlike most pharmacies, had dietitians on staff to help explain the purpose of the test to customers. “It’s far too early to expect people to walk into a store and buy a genetic test directly off the shelf without some guidance or counsel,” she said. Still, Sciona gets most of its sales from the Internet and from multilevel marketing.