GPs warned over genetic testing kits

GPs have been urged to warn patients of the potential dangers of using OTC genetic testing kits, as falling prices make them more affordable.

Genetic kits are now available in shops for less than £300, having cost thousands of pounds when they launched.

Dr Imran Rafi, chairman of the Primary Care Genetics Society and a GP in Surrey, said that the kits were becoming increasingly popular as more companies entered the market.

This comes despite a report by the Human Genetics Commission in 2007 which called for the restriction of advertising for genetic testing.

The report also recommended that genetic tests should only be offered by suitably qualified health professionals.
Dr Rafi said: ‘GPs should urge caution with these tests. It is important that they have a discussion about the potential harms with their patients.

‘They should take a family history and be particularly aware of high-risk families, who have a strong family history of diseases.’

Most GPs should be able to interpret the result of genetic tests, usually given in terms of relative and absolute risk, he said.

‘But the problem with these tests is that they are using early research findings to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are common to diseases such as cancer and arthritis.

‘It is unclear what research these tests are based on, so it is important that GPs look at the research behind the results.’

Meanwhile, last week the Nuffield Council on Bioethics had launched a consultation into the rise of private health tests and scans. The council warned GPs were being ‘cut out’ of healthcare by the private tests.

  • Read this week’s GP dated 1 May for the full version of this story.

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