California Officials Advance Efforts To Rein In Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing Firms

In a California Healthline Special Report, three experts discussed the new industry of DNA testing for consumers and efforts in California to step up regulation.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Linda Avey, co-founder of 23-and-Me, a Google-backed startup in Mountain View;
  • Matthew Daynard, senior attorney for the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection;
  • Gail Javitt, law and policy director at the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University; and
  • Bonnie Sorensen, chief deputy director of policy and programs at the California Department of Public Health.

Plummeting costs of genetic testing have given rise to several new businesses. Consumers willing to pay a price can submit a saliva sample or a swab from their cheek and get direct access to information about their own DNA.

Last month, DPH began cracking down on the new commercial enterprise, sending “cease and desist” letters to 13 companies. Some have suspended operations in the state, but the majority still are up and running.

“It was really an accumulation of consumer complaints about not only the cost but also the accuracy of the tests” that triggered the state action, Sorensen said.

“We are in the health education business, in public health, and our concern is in making sure that these firms are complying with California law,” Sorensen said (Rebillot, California Healthline, 7/21).

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