A company back by internet giant, Google, that offers a personal genetic screening to test for diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s, will be available in the UK from today despite major public health concerns in the US.
The Department of Health has warned the public to ‘think carefully’ before using the £125 genomic assessment, as ‘no test is 100% reliable’.
The FDA banned the company from predicting people’s future health after failing to prove the tests were accurate. Now the company is launching their product in the UK, it has raised questions of whether the science is sound and the concern that people may seek out unnecessary treatments.
Globally, 800,000 people have taken the tests, however customers in the US do not currently receive information on their health after the FDA temporarily banned 23andMe from marketing the test last year.
Without strong public oversight, we’re back to the era of snake oil,” Marcy Darnovsky, chief executive of the Centre for Genetics and Society, said in regards to the topic.
The UK is considered a worldwide leader for genetic research, and experts believe that genetic testing offered by 23andMe would become more common in the future.
‘You could argue with ethicists till the cows come home about whether people should be able to have their genomes sequenced,” said Mark Thomas, professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London.
‘The bottom line is, technology is taking over. It is here, they are doing it, and it’s not goingquestion is: are these companies responsible? Is the information they are giving you scientifically sound and is it handled in a responsible way?
‘Genetics is messy and complicated. If people are expecting their test to say, ‘you’ve got this variant, therefore you’re going to get this disease’, they need to know that this is rarely the way it is.
’23andMe are one of the better companies out there. They’ve got vast resources and Google behind them, and have set up a very professional outfit with some leading scientists on their advisory board.’
The arrival of the drug brings with it major health and ethical concerns, including those pertaining to whether the results of the test are reliable. However, the NHS prides itself on being ahead of the curve with genetic research and testing, there is arguably, no organisation more responsible than the NHS to handle a test of this nature.