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Genet Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;5(4):332-7.

Direct-to-consumer sales of genetic services on the Internet.

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  • 1Medical Genetics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


PURPOSE The increasing use of the Internet to obtain genetics information and to order medical services without a prescription, combined with a rise in direct-to-consumer marketing for genetic testing, suggests the potential for the Internet to be used to sell genetic services. METHODS A systematic World Wide Web search was conducted in May 2002 to assess the availability of genetic services sold directly to consumers on the Internet. RESULTS Out of 105 sites that offered genetic services directly, most offered non-health-related services, including parentage confirmation testing (83%), identity testing (56%), and DNA banking (24%); however, health-related genetic tests were offered through 14 sites (13%). The health-related genetic tests available ranged from standard tests, such as hemochromatosis and cystic fibrosis, to more unconventional tests related to nutrition, behavior, and aging. Of these 14 sites, 5 described risks associated with the genetic services and 6 described the availability of counseling. CONCLUSIONS The availability of direct sales of health-related genetic tests creates the potential for inadequate pretest decision making, misunderstanding test results, and access to tests of questionable clinical value.

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