Thursday, July 22, 2010

FDA's public hearing on genetic tests

The FDA had a public hearing on our campus this week (Monday and Tuesday) about oversight of “laboratory developed tests” (including direct-to-consumer genetic tests). I dropped by for the last two sessions (on direct-to-consumer tests and education and outreach). Each included presentations from interested parties (the “public” in this case being representatives from companies selling direct-to-consumer tests, professional and educational organizations), a panel discussion and comments. FDA officials sat on the podium but did not speak. There were a few hundred people there, and it was a sophisticated group (at least the speakers felt no need to define BRCA, GWAS, CLIA, QSR, DTC, LDT, IVDMIA, NIH, CDC, FTC, NIST, NSGC or many other acronyms). I spent a lot of the time Googling jargon with my phone.

It was very interesting. I got the feeling that genotyping companies such as 23andMe will not be able to continue to operate as they have for a lot longer. I heard several people call for physicians being involved in "ordering the test" and "interpreting the test." Already, New York and Maryland prohibit people from obtaining their own genetic information from direct-to-consumer companies.

Of course one problem is that the typical family care physician probably knows even less about genetics and how to interpret the results of these tests than the typical 23andMe customer, and that was not lost on many of the people there. Everyone recognized the need for educating both consumers and physicians. One particularly original idea was that consumers should have to pass a test analogous to a driver’s test (as is currenly done at the Personal Genome Project).

My reaction was to come home and download my personal data from 23andMe so that I can be assured of continued access to it. I am concerned to see what the FDA decides to do.

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