Walgreens to Sell OTC Genetic Testing Kits

Kit offers info on genetic inclination to illness

By Matt Bartosik
|  Tuesday, May 11, 2010  |  Updated 12:30 PM CDT
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Soon, your pharmacy shopping list could include a bottle of soda, a candy bar, and a personal genetic testing kit.

Exactly what aisle category does the latter fall into?

Starting Friday, Walgreens shoppers can buy an over-the-counter genetics test from Pathway Genomics at 7,500 stores across the country. Priced at $20 to $30, the kit claims to offer information on users' possibility of developing conditions like Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer, or diabetes.

Access to the scientific analysis online, however, costs another $79 to $179, according to Chicago Breaking Business.

Researchers are cautioning consumers, saying the genetic testing is incomplete. Several other factors, like lifestyle and environment, need to be evaluated when diagnosing an illness.

For example, if you don't have a gene linked to diabetes, that doesn't mean you won't have problems if you habitually have sugary snacks for breakfast.

Genetic testing isn't new. Several online companies have offered the service since 2007 for a few hundred dollars.

But placing the kit next to the magazine rack or deodorant section at Walgreens opens the genetic door to a much broader audience, including those who don't fully understand genomic science and how it works.

"Pathway's test does come with a comprehensive, easy-to-read, accurate packet of information about how the testing works and what important information it leaves out," says Mary Carmichael of Newsweek's blog, The Human Condition. "But, of course, few people are going to read that packet before peeking at their genetic risk profiles."

Pathway Genomics CEO Jim Plante believes that one shouldn't have to be scientifically-inclined or financially-fortunate in order to have access to "critical" genetic information.

"The value of knowing how genes play a role in our personal lives, and potentially the lives of our children, is critical for making well-informed health and wellness decisions," he said in a press release.

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign. 

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