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Pathway Genomics is looking to sell a variety of gene tests to the public via retailer Walgreens. The FDA may block sales, though.  (Source: Pathway Genomics)
Tests are going to be sold at 6,000 of Walgreens' 7,500 stores

Want to know if you will get breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, become obese, or suffer from a range of other maladies?  It's all in your genes.  

Currently you would have to go to doctors to test for genetic abnormalities that could lead to various illnesses.  An enterprising San Diego startup called Pathway Genomics has compiled a variety of these tests, though, and is about to start selling them at retail giant Walgreen.

FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley was surprised by the news and said that the company has not yet received approval for the devices and must first get approved.  Approval would involve a lengthy and expensive process of submitting evidence of the device's efficacy and could shelve the retail plans for years.  However, if the company does not comply, Riley warns that the FDA may order the devices pulled from Walgreens' store shelves.

Gene testing has to date exclusively been conducted in the medical setting.  The new Walgreen test, though, allows buyers to take a saliva sample and then send it back to the lab for analysis.  The company say that the results can help people make informed medical decisions.

The kits are set to go on sale at 6,000 of Walgreens' 7,500 stores.  Individual gene tests will retail between $19.99 and $30.  Combo tests are also available such as the drug-response test for $79, the "pre-pregnancy planning" test for $179, and the health condition test for $179.  All three of the combo tests are available for $249.

FDA's Riley warns, "The claims have limitations based on existing science, and consumers should not be making important medical and lifestyle decisions based on these tests without first consulting a health-care professional."

Jim Plante, CEO of Pathway Genomics refutes that his company has done anything wrong, stating, "There are people who need or want to know more about their genetic makeup, and we recognize that, for some, genetic reports are becoming a more important component in managing their personal health care.  The value of knowing how genes play a role in our personal lives, and potentially the lives of our children, is critical for making well-informed health and wellness decisions."

Ed MacBean, vice president of product development for the company says that his firm will "be happy to share with the FDA any data that is requested", but that, "We’re still going to sell the kits at Walgreens because at this point, we're not aware of any reason we are unable to."

The FDA according to a report in 
The Sun Times may also be considering action against online retailers of the test kits.  While Walgreens is the first brick-and-mortar retailer to offer the kits, they've been available previously online.

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Think of the children!
By sintaxera on 5/13/2010 10:10:22 AM , Rating: 2
My wife and I are expecting our first child in November. I would love to have this test available in order to see what potential problems our child might develop in the future. My wife went years with undiagnosed hypothyroidism as a child, and it stunted her growth. A test like this could help point to potential problems before they happen, making future diagnosis easier.

RE: Think of the children!
By tmouse on 5/14/2010 9:23:40 AM , Rating: 4
I would really suggest you go to a genetic screening center if you have concerns. These tests are only really effective in rare circumstances for many of the conditions this company tests for and at present we do not know what controls they have in place to prevent cross contamination, mixing up results or even detecting false positives/negatives. without some form of adherence to ISO standards the results are worth nothing. I find it hard to believe a real company with the expertise to do these types of tests would be ignorant of the requirements for FDA approval. It shows sloppiness and a motive for profit over safety in my opinion. Some of these tests could lead you to believe you may have an incurable disease and even if you go to a doctor and find they were wrong was it really worth the suffering you will got through before you get the results? Keep in mind for almost all of the tests, not having the mutation certainly does not mean you will not get the disease, and in many having the mutation just means you have a greater probability of getting it NOT a certainty. While $20 is cheap if there is not some form of certification by an independent 3rd party that the company is doing things responsively you might as well donate the $20 towards research or a something that make you happy.

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