The effort to empower consumers with information about their health risks, as touched on in the June 29 Business article “ The Wojcicki charm offensive ,” is commendable. We fully support Anne Wojcicki’s goal of helping people live longer, healthier lives. We do believe, however, that because information provided by direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies such as Ms. Wojcicki’s 23andMe can sometimes be misleading, health-care personnel and genetic counselors should be involved in the ordering and interpreting of these tests. These individuals are valuable resources to patients, helping them to better understand a test’s results and limitations .
Before the Food and Drug Administration ordered 23andMe to stop marketing its personal genome service last November, the company’s test for cancer-causing BRCA mutations looked at only three of some 2,000 reported carcinogenic mutations in the BRCA genes. Additionally, the test did not use direct DNA sequencing, the only BRCA testing method proven to be nearly 100 percent accurate. This lack of comprehensive testing can be confusing to consumers because it does not give a full picture of their health risk.
Because of the incomplete and potentially unreliable nature of these direct-to-consumer test services, consumers who use them may not get the results expected or needed to make appropriate health decisions. While we support patient access to health-care information, we believe qualified health-care personnel, including genetic counselors, could play a vital part in allaying these concerns when consumers order high-risk tests, such as predictive tests for cancer.
Janet B. Kreizman, Washington
The writer is chief executive of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.