FDA Approves Companies Telling Consumers Genetic Risks Associated With Diseases

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(Karyn Miller-Medzon/WBUR)
(Karyn Miller-Medzon/WBUR)

The consumer genetic testing company 23andMe can tell you about your ancestry. Now, it might also be able to tell you something about your future.

Federal regulators have given the company the go ahead to tell consumers directly if they're at higher risk for 10 different diseases, including late-onset Alzheimer and Parkinson's.

“Genetic testing is a lot like your cholesterol test," says Anne Wojicki, CEO of 23andMe. "Your genetic information can tell you that you are potentially high risk for something. Just like a cholesterol test, but it doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to get it.”

But critics say there are concerns about privacy, and the reliability of these tests.

Dr. Aubrey Milunsky, from the Center for Human Genetics in Cambridge, says that he is seeing patients come in with results from 23andMe, that he says are not necessarily "reliable or accurate in reference to the future."

"I see patients who constantly arrive here with a wad of paper of the results from 23andMe," says Milunsky, "saying that they don't understand what these results mean, they're extremely anxious about the potential implications."


Carey Goldberg, host of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

This segment aired on April 10, 2017.


Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.


Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


Kassandra Sundt Producer/Reporter
Kassandra Sundt was a Radio Boston producer and reporter at WBUR. She started at the station as a Here & Now intern in 2010.



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