Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walgreens to sell DNA tests.

From NY Times:
Genetic tests that assess a person’s risk of getting various diseases are heading to the corner drug store.

Pathway Genomics, a start-up company, is expected to announce on Tuesday that it will sell such a test through most of the nation’s 7,500 Walgreens stores.

The tests sold by Pathway, and others by its competitors, look at specific variations in a person’s DNA to derive information about their risk of getting diseases like diabetes, heart disease and various forms of cancer. Such tests have until now been sold directly to consumers through the Internet or through doctors’ offices.

By capitalizing on the foot traffic in drug stores, Pathway hopes to gain an edge on rivals 23andMe and Navigenics, which are older and better known.

“It’s more consumer awareness than we could get from advertising online,” said Jim Woodman, vice president for corporate strategy at Pathway, which is based in San Diego and is privately held.

The personal genomics companies appear to have garnered fewer than 100,000 customers combined since starting nearly three years ago. Pathway, which started last summer, will not say how many customers it has.

The tests, which generally cost $300 or more, have also stirred controversy. Some genetics experts say the tests cannot provide accurate or significant information because not enough is known yet about the genetic causes of disease. Some critics say doctors should be involved in interpreting the tests.

New York State considers these medical tests, not consumer information, and requires a license. Pathway does not yet have one, so its test will not be carried by Walgreens in New York.

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