Personal Gene Tests Draw More Scrutiny : Shots - Health News Congress wants answers about a bunch of personal gene tests. How accurate are they and how are people being counseled about the information?
NPR logo Personal Gene Tests Draw More Scrutiny

Personal Gene Tests Draw More Scrutiny

Uh-oh. Looks like genetic testing companies that have worked so hard to make investigating your DNA sound like a hip, celebrity-filled party finally woke up the parents.

Are you ready to find out what's in your DNA? hide caption

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Are you ready to find out what's in your DNA?

The House Energy and Commerce Committee wants answers from three test makers -- Navigenics, Pathway Genomics, 23andMe -- on what exactly they're testing for and how accurate they are in getting answers. The House panel also wants to know how and when they provide genetic counseling.

As the questions mount, drugstore chain CVS Caremark has followed Walgreens in deciding against selling Pathway Genomics test in stores just yet. Walgreens got cold feet after the Food and Drug Administration piped up earlier this month with questions about whether the test should be reviewed and approved first.

The hubbub over the tests hit a new level as Pathway looked to put them in retail stores. But just because you may not see the tests in drugstores right away doesn't mean you can't try one while the regulators and overseers sort things out.

Over at the virtual aisles of, for instance, 23andMe's $499 test for ancestry and health information is in stock now.

Oh, and if you're enrolling at University of California, Berkeley, this fall you could be part of a big genetic experiment. The university will be test incoming freshman for three genes related to metabolism. The results could help them figure out if they're prone to trouble breaking down dairy products or alcohol, for instance.

The Berkeley researchers "may think these are noncontroversial genes, but there’s nothing noncontroversial about alcohol on campus," bioethicist George Annas told the New York Times. "What if someone tests negative, and they don’t have the marker, so they think that means they can drink more? Like all genetic information, it’s potentially harmful."