A Simple Test That Will Blow Your Mind

by DavalosMcCormack on May 13, 2010

How would you feel if you got a letter in the mail saying “Congratulations. You are at high risk of getting breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis and heart disease. Good luck.”

Not much fun eh. But that’s what could happen to some people if they buy a new over-the-counter genetic home test kit.  The kit, made by the San Diego-based company Pathway Genomics, was expected to go on sale at some 6,000 Walgreens stores across the U.S. but after the Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about the test those plans were shelved. At least for now. However, you can still get the test online.

Genetic destiny or just a scam!

The kit, which costs around $20, allows you to take a small saliva sample, mail it back to the company where it will be scanned for 70 different conditions including obesity (couldn’t you just look in the mirror to check that one out?) and the results will be mailed back to you. Oh, by the way, getting those results costs extra, a whopping $399 extra.

For an extra fee Pathway will store your information in what it calls its “secure DNA Lockbox” so that it can re-test it in years to come when we actually have a clue what to do about the results! Nice eh, you pay them and pay them and pay them and in time if there’s actually something they can offer you to help with the condition that you didn’t know you had till they told you about it then you can pay them some more and they’ll tell you about it.

Not so fast

Not surprisingly a lot of medical experts, ethics experts and just regular non-experts with half a brain are worried about the kit, saying it gives people information but no help in understanding what it means, what the implications are and what, if anything, they can do about it.

For instance if the test says you are at risk for breast cancer does it say how high a risk, what your treatment options are or even if you need to think about treatment as this is not something that might occur for decades. Or if you are at risk for Alzheimer’s what good is that knowing that there are no treatments available for the disease.

Does it help anyone to start planning to go out of their mind years before it happens! If it even happens. Because the biggest problem with the tests is that no one really knows if the genes they are highlighting really lead to the diseases they are linked to. They might. But then again, they might not.

Reassuring eh!

It’s so uncertain even the Feds are worried!

The FDA is also a tad unsettled by the tests and has given Pathway 15 days to respond to a request for more information about the genetic home test kit.  The FDA says it has not granted clearance or approval for the kit and wants to know why Pathway thinks it does not need that approval before making the tests available.

Trust us we wouldn’t lie to you. Would we?

Pathway, of course, does a nice job of trying to sell you a product and then quickly distancing itself from the results, with Vice President for Assorted Stuff Ed MacBean saying “The tests conducted are not an in-vitro medical device and are not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or cure of disease. It does provide information that allows a person to learn about their health to make healthier lifestyle choices.”

But how do you make healthier lifestyle choices about diseases when we don’t even really know what causes them let alone how to treat them or prevent them?

Save your $20. Buy a lottery ticket. Your odds are better.

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