Genetic Testing Kits Just Don't Cut It

Companies are promising too much, writes Columbia professor
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2013 12:09 PM CST
The logo for 23andMe.   (AP Photo/23andMe)

(Newser) – The FDA made a wise move in forcing 23andMe to stop marketing its $99 genetic testing kit, writes Columbia professor Robert Klitzman at Bloomberg View. The premise of companies like these sounds great: Get your DNA tested for a modest sum and head off serious health issues. But the scientific reality is much different: "Only part of a person’s DNA is tested, and scientists are still unsure how to interpret most of the information," writes Klitzman.

One renowned geneticist found that 23andMe and a similar company disagreed half the time on more than half of 13 illnesses studied for five patients. "A doctor who only diagnosed patients correctly 50% of the time wouldn’t practice medicine for very long," he writes. The danger is that people will get false alarms or, worse, unnecessary treatments. The FDA should get even more aggressive to protect consumers, he argues. "When it comes to understanding the disease, $99 doesn’t get you much." Click for the full column.

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