For a mere $20-30 (plus $79-$279 in testing costs) Walgreens will start to sell at-home genetic testing kits in about 6,000 of its 7,500 US locations Friday.
The Pathway Genomics Insight: Discover Your DNA personal genetic testing kit will include a vial for saliva samples and an envelope to send it back to the company. (Aside: it will be somebody’s job to open up germy, saliva filled envelopes all day. Ew.) It looks strangely like a box of software. After an unspecified amount of time, you can log in to the company’s website and obtain results about how likely you are to eventually be stricken with diabetes, prostate cancer or obesity.
The maker of the pricey tests says that they’re not subject to FDA review, and dodges responsibility for the results of the results (for instance, people freaking out or getting expensive preventative treatments) in a statement:
“The tests conducted are not an in-vitro medical device and are not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or cure of disease,” Pathway’s vice president of product management, Ed MacBean, told The Tribune. “It does provide information that allows a person to learn about their health to make healthier lifestyle choices. If the FDA contacts us, we will discuss it and address any concerns they might have.”
While the concept of at home genetic testing sounds all futuristic and amazing, it’s actually something that’s been available for a while. You can already participate in at-home paternity tests if you don’t know for sure you’re that baby’s daddy, or gender prediction tests if you have money but no doctor performing regular ultrasound tests. But bio-ethicists and doctor types worry that the new tests could cause unnecessary panic or cause customers to misinterpret test results. They can also lead to a false sense of security, since the number of markers the test could pick up far outnumbers the various array of genetic ticking timebombs you can fall victim to at any given moment.
What say you? Does this sound like a useful prediction tool or more like the machine at the diner that tells you if you’re “hot-blooded” and costs a quarter?