23andMe is a genetic testing company that focuses on the expansion of personalized medicine. The genetic testing company chose its name for the 23 pairs of chromosome found in one “normal,” human cell. In 2008, Time magazine named 23andMe’s saliva based test the invention of the year. Recently, the FDA forced 23andMe to stop retailing its personal genome services because the genetic testing company had not earned nor obtained the legally required regulatory approval. 23andMe was shut down for about a year due to some questionable -ethically- practices, that are still being debated today, by scholars and professors alike.
23AndMe Genetic Testing Company Rolls Out New Genetic Test Services
The FDA found that the saliva based tests that 23andMe created were a bit misleading. The saliva based tests could see a patient’s genetic composition which could confuse patients, or cause them to react in an irrational way. In its warning letter, the FDA said some of its genetic services were “particularly concerning.” Drug response testing posed the risk of patients relying on test results to manage drug regimens on their own. They might change the dose or stop taking a drug altogether, which could be deadly. Based on their 1 million patient strong database, 23andMe would send the results of the saliva test back to the consumer, and illustrate the disease that they were most susceptible to. What 23andMe failed to explain though, is that the majority of the diseases they tested for, had more to do with lifestyle choices than genetic testing. Allowing consumers direct access to genetic information that that may influence their behavior when it comes to making health care decision, comes with risks however. Some patients could make decisions that adversely affect their health without consulting doctor or medical professional. Many healthcare providers feel that portraying physicians as a barrier to health information or the enemy could be detrimental for generations to come.
Brian Zikmund-Fisher is an expert on bioethics at the University of Michigan.“Providing people with more information is not helpful if they can’t do anything about it, or it leads them to focus on the wrong thing,” the wrong thing he is referring to, is focussing on a patient’s genes, and not their lifestyle choices. Fisher believes that less information is sometimes better, especially when it comes to health related issues. People may be interested in genetic testing companies, and going throug
h with a genetic test. Yet without proper counseling, the information that they receive could be alarming.
Genetic Testing Direct to Consumer
“There is a risk that someone will decide to get tested because they are interested in one disease but end up getting potentially disturbing information about another one, one that they perhaps were less prepared to consider,” Fisher said.
23andMe’s new testing doesn’t necessarily focus on disease that a person may or may not have. They have found a friendly medium with the FDA in which, prospective parents could test to see which diseases or traits they would pass on to their offspring.
The idea that consumers shouldn’t have full access to their genetic composition is dangerous if people aren’t armed with proper information to assist in making decisions based on that information. We should have access -if we are willing to pay for it- to the information; however, it is imperative that should a consumer partake in a saliva based -any genetic testing for that matter- genetic test, then they should receive some counseling from a trained profession. The idea is like placing a gun in the hand of someone that hasn’t used it before, and that is a dangerous world that we would be creating.
The new 23andMe tests are innovative, intelligent and actually educating the public. It is just like any other medical information service that someone may use. It is unreasonable to be fearful of direct to consumer testing, but it should be balanced by informed and balanced explanations of the tests.
Genetic Testing Should Be Done In Conjunction With A Professional
The moral of this story is that genetic testing should be used WITH the aid of a trained physician. The results with the help of professionals could change the medical field drastically.