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House launches investigation into genetic tests

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010; 3:43 PM

A congressional committee Wednesday launched an investigation into genetic tests being sold directly to consumers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on oversight and investigations sent letters to Pathway Genomics Corp. of San Diego, 23&Me Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., and Navigenics Inc. of Foster City, Calif., requesting information about their tests. The move was prompted after Pathway announced plans last week to sell its genetic test through drug stores nationwide for the first time "despite concern from the scientific community regarding the accuracy of test results," the letters stated.

Walgreens, the nation's largest drug store chain, announced it was postponing plans to sell the test, however, after the Food and Drug Administration questioned whether it was being sold legally because it had not been reviewed by the agency.

The letters from committee chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), and Michael C. Burgess (R-Tex.), request by June 4 a variety of information about the tests, including details about how the testing is performed, the tests' accuracy and privacy protections.

Pathway did not immediately respond. In e-mails, Navigenics and 23&Me said they were cooperating with the investigation.

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