(Cross-posted to Genomes Unzipped.)
Today’s US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing into the direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry was a vicious affair. Representatives from testing companies 23andMe, Navigenics and Pathway faced a barrage of questions about the accuracy and utility of their tests, made all the worse by the fact that many of the Committee’s members seemed unable to distinguish between the more responsible companies in the field and the scammers and bottom-feeders. (I watched by web-cast, which I can’t yet track down a copy of online; you can read the written testimony of the speakers here.)
And the news for direct-to-consumer companies just keeps getting grimmer: the star attraction of the hearing today was a new report from a sting operation by the US Government Accountability Office (PDF), which details the results of anonymous purchases of kits from four DTC testing companies as well as assessments of marketing from 11 other companies approached by the GAO “both by phone and in person” without purchasing kits. While the companies are listed as anonymous numbers in the report, they were revealed in the hearing as (1) 23andMe, (2) deCODEme, (3) Pathway Genomics and (4) Navigenics (the remaining 11 remain nameless). The report details a litany of complaints – ranging from the flimsy to the serious – about the marketing, reporting and scientific basis for the companies’ operations.
Following hot on the heels of the two-day FDA meeting on lab-developed tests (see summaries from Dan Vorhaus here and here) and the recent warning letters sent to 14 more genetic test providers, this is a stunning blow to the nascent personal genomics industry.
But wait, there’s more
And it gets much, much worse: the report includes covertly taped conversations between GAO employees and several DTC companies, which I’ve embedded below. In this video, the company offering breast cancer advice is apparently Navigenics, and the company enthusiastically promoting non-consensual DNA testing for a customer’s fiance is Pathway Genomics. It seems safe to assume that the remaining companies on the tape aren’t members of the first four (reputable) testing companies, but rather of the still-anonymous 11.
Read the rest of this post at Genomes Unzipped >>