With its $99 home-test kit, 23andMe has brought the genomics revolution to countless Americans at prices that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Already, over 500,000 people have used its innovative products to learn more about their ancestry, health risks, and genetic predisposition to a wide variety of factors.
But the Food and Drug Administration has just shut down further sales of 23andMe’s kits, citing the “potential health consequences that could result from false positive or false negative assessments for high-risk indications.” In response, TechFreedom has launched a Change.org petition urging the FDA to focus its efforts on educating doctors and patients about the benefits, and limitations, of genetic testing — not banning home test kits. The following statement can be attributed to TechFreedom President Berin Szoka:
The FDA seems to think that Americans can’t be trusted with more information about their potential health risks because some people might make rash decisions with it. But banning personal genomics isn’t the answer.
23andMe is simply doing what the Internet does best: forcing old dogs to learn new tricks. That’s what the fight between Uber and taxicab commissions is about. Same for AirBnB and hotel regulators. The only profession slower to change how they do things than doctors is bureaucrats. So the FDA’s reaction is understandable — but misguided.
Those of us who have already used the site know the real problem is that doctors themselves are behind the curve. When 23andMe sent us our results, we followed their advice: we asked our doctor to talk about them. Most doctors didn’t know where to begin. But the more of us ask about 23andMe, the more the medical profession is catching up. Slowly but surely, they’re brushing up on genomics, taking the time to understand the site, and talking to us about our results and what, if anything, to do about them.
Szoka is available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please sign and share the Change.org petition, and check out TechFreedom’s amicus brief opposing the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to stifle the flow of health information.