Direct-to-consumer genetic tests in the consulting room

Elianne M. Gerrits, Marieke F. van Dooren, Annelien L. Bredenoord en Marc H.W. van Mil

Published: 11/06/2020


Rapid developments in genome technology and a growing interest in personalized healthcare have led to a large rise in the range and use of commercial DNA tests, the so-called direct-to-consumer genetic tests (DTC-GT). DTC-GT can be of a non-medical (e.g. for external characteristics) or medical nature; medical tests mostly indicate relative risks of disease e.g. Alzheimer’s disease or certain forms of cancer. Low clinical validity and frequently unknown analytical validity of DTC-GT make it difficult to estimate the clinical usefulness of test results. From an ethical perspective, an increase in autonomy and possible health benefits must be weighed against loss of privacy, inadequate provision of information and the risk of misinterpretation of results, over-diagnosis, overtreatment and higher healthcare costs. It is unclear whether providing and implementing DTC-GT require authorisation under Dutch law in the Population Screening Act (Wet op het Bevolkingsonderzoek) or the Special Medical Procedures Act (Wet op Bijzondere Medische Verrichtingen). Clinical utility of DTC-GT can only increase if there is greater clarity on interpretation and scope of the law and regulations, when DTC-GT companies provide better information and guidance for consumers and when there is more focus on DTC-GT in education and training programmes for healthcare professionals.

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