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Tag Archives: Harrison Institute for Public Health

Trends Update — DTC Genetic Testing: Survey of State Laws on False Advertising

B&W_DNA_sequenceOne aspect of direct-to-consumer genetic testing that requires particular vigilance is the “consumer” aspect.  We should expect that as the underlying technology becomes cheaper and testing companies proliferate, there will be more who prey on insecurity and health fears to make a quick buck while providing little value (or worse, missing genuine concerns).

GenomeWeb Daily News today notes a survey of state “false advertising” laws (pdf) conducted by Anya Prince, a student with the Georgetown University Law Center’s Harrison Institute for Public Law.  At the moment, the survey reports, there are no state laws specific to genetic testing.  However, the survey does identify various generic false advertising laws that could apply if DTC providers make false or misleading claims.  As GenomeWeb notes, the Federal Trade Commission has already shown an interest in policing the area.  Together with the CDC, they put out a flyer in July 2006 on DTC genetic tests for consumers, advising that the tests are only truly valuable if interpreted by a doctor or trained counselor.

Some skeptics note that the value of tests for genetic predispositions is minimal.  Even without a genetic test, we know that if we want to avoid heart disease we should eat well and exercise.

Similarly, even without specific laws aimed at genetic shenanigans, we already know that providers who want to avoid liability should, in their literature and in their contracts, be honest with their customers about what the results do and do not mean.

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