DNA test kits to be sold at Walgreen's

May 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
This Friday, Walgreen's will begin selling over-the-counter, do-it-yourself DNA testing. The kits claim to be able tell you if you're at risk for serious diseases, such as breast cancer and Alzheimer's. However, critics worry they will cause confusion and misinformation.

The Insight genetic testing kits sold at Walgreen's for around $30 was already available on the Internet, but the kits had not reached a mass audience until now.

Coming soon to your neighborhood Walgreen's, amid the tooth-paste and deodorant, will be kits that test your DNA for everything from Alzheimer's to breast cancer.

The kits, made by San Diego-based Pathway Genomics mark the debut of DNA testing at corner drugstores.

For $249, your DNA is checked for 23 genetic conditions including diabetes, along with risk for Alzheimer's, heart attack, lung cancer, and Multiple Sclerosis.

"And with that information, you can make better lifestyle choices," says Jim Woodman from Pathway Genomics.

"It's like asking your next door neighbor to do surgery," says Hank Greely from the Center for Law and Biosciences.

But critics worry that without the proper medical guidance, consumers could get wildly misleading results.

"Most of the information they get doesn't mean anything, but what I worry about is people won't realize how little it means and they'll act as if it's more powerful than it is," says Greely.

The FDA says the DNA kits do not have its approval and its planning an investigation once they hit store shelves.

Walgreen's says the decision of whether or not to use the tests should be left up to the consumer. Shoppers ABC7 spoke with seemed unsure about whether they would want to give over the counter genetic testing a try.

"If it could help you prevent something or catch a disease earlier, I suppose as long as they kept it private," says Palo Alto resident John Vermes.

"I'm not afraid of anything. A little bit of ignorance is good," says Palo Alto resident Dan Frank.

CVS plans to start selling the kits on August. New York is the only state where they cannot be sold because the state considers them to be medical tests and not consumer information.


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