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Concerns Raised About Drugstore Genetic Test

FDA Is Looking Into Claims About New Genetic Test Kit

Pathway Genetic Test continued...

Genetic counseling is available at a price. It will cost $40 for a call of up to 20 minutes, and $99 for an hour of counseling, although Pathway will not charge for counseling calls it makes to customers to warn them of particularly troubling test results.

Only adults will get their full test results. If a parent sends in a child's saliva for testing, Pathway will report only those risks that affect childhood health. When the child reaches age 18, he or she can then ask Pathway for the full report.

Experts: Genetic Test Offers 'Information Without Knowledge'

Geneticists tell WebMD that the Pathway test is probably very accurate, as far as it goes.

"They are not sequencing the genes, just the SNPs," Jeffery Vance, MD, PhD, chairman of genetics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, tells WebMD.

This means that while the test accurately identifies the most common variations on a gene linked to disease, it may miss rarer or yet-unknown variations that have the same effect.

"They could test for the six common SNPs that are most common ones that cause a disease, but a lot of other ones on the same gene could also go bad," Vance says. "So absence of information like that does not give you clean bill of health."

Even so, the test will accurately identify a large number of health-related risk factors. That's both good and bad, says Robert Marion, MD, director of genetics and developmental medicine at Montefiore Children's Hospital and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y.

The good news, Marion says, is the availability of genetic tests means we are entering a new age of personalized medicine.

"We will be able to take a sample of DNA from a newborn or fetus or adult and analyze all 20,000 genes and come up with the profile of this person's lifetime disease susceptibility," Marion tells WebMD. "So people with susceptibility to diabetes, for example, will know they should be at a good weight, have a good diet, and pay attention to blood glucose levels earlier in life than they might otherwise have done."

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