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FDA: Stop the Ban on and Other Home DNA Test Kits!

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 As a kid, I remember playing with a toy microscope, looking at strands of my hair or nail clippings and wishing that I could dig deeper. Today, technology has advanced to the point that not only do we, as 21st century consumers, have the ability to view those cells, but we can actually access tools that will help us analyze what we are made of.  

Except that the FDA won't let us.  According to articles like this one here, the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has halted sales of home test DNA kits like 23&  In so doing, the FDA is prohibiting consumers from accessing knowledge.  In this regard, the FDA's action is  really no different from banning books or censoring newspapers, which likewise keep the public from access to knowledge. True that knowledge may be controversial or hurtful or potentially harmful (such as how-to guides on committing suicide), but it also stimulates conversations about tough topics and opens our eyes to new worlds and new viewpoints. Access to information about our DNA, our bodies, our health and our ancestors carries the same potential.

Like any regulator, the FDA has its "reasons."  Here, the FDA claims that home DNA tests have no scientific basis and that they may "cause patients to receive inadequate or inappropriate medical care." Here's an example of one concern:

For instance, 23andMe says its test can identify women who carry the BRCA gene mutation that significantly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. But a false result could lead women to undergo unnecessary screening, chemotherapy and surgery.

Uh, right- a doctor is going to accept a home DNA kit and start administering chemo?  This is simply ridiculous.

Moreover, there are so many home tests on the market that aren't fully accurate - pregnancy tests, ovulation tests, blood sugar tests, etc...Yet, they've not been banned. Back in the day, we'd send people to jail based on blood tests that probably were no more or less accurate than these kits. My guess is that labs now see that they stand to lose market share and have lobbied the FDA to take their side. 

So let's speak up as well. Let's assert our right as 21st century consumers to access every bit of information that technology makes available to us, and to be trusted to use it responsibly.  

(post script- as a final note, I should add that I bought this kit for my husband's birthday present - and I'll have to get him another present if he can't use this test!)

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