Thursday, June 14, 2007

Forbes and Genetics

Way back in 2004 Forbes published an excellent article on inflammation and heart disease. That article introduced me to deCODE. In fact, I was so impressed with their model I began to read about their founder voraciously. More importantly I began to see the wonderful role the media has to play in this new revolution. They can influence the demand just as much as Myriad spending 1 million in Denver to market to consumers. Granted these publications don't have the Oprah Effect (Did I mention that Dr Oz is going to meet the Sherpa?), but they do have some teeth!

But I was also distressed when Forbes published an article that I had a tough time swallowing. In fact it brought me to tears. How can this publication blindly validate and promote these tests without any medical guidance, or suspect guidance at best. I am certain you have all read this article, but you can read it here. The wonderfully hyped name 12 Gene Tests That Could Change Your Life says it all. But before I get into the article, which is misleading and not factual enough to guide decision making, I will investigate the authors via my favorite little spy...uh I mean Search Engine Google ;)

Robert Langreth. He has written many articles some good, some bad. He has been writing about deCODE since 2003 prior to the Big Forbes cover story in 2004. He has been writing about personalized medicine since 1999 as Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. He also has written many scathing reports about drug companies, which is why I find it ironic that he endorses deCODE's diabetes test. Which does not tell you as much about your risk as if you had a first degree relative with diabetes. Mr. Langreth was a Staff Reporter at the Wall Street Journal from 1995 to 2000 and an Associate Editor at Popular Science from 1992 to 1994. It was at this time in my search when I figured it out

From a chat in 2002
mherper: What's Kari Stefannson like in person?
LANGRETH: Kari is a charming and very emotional person. He literally had to sell his radical database to an entire country. He did it by a grass-roots campaign, going and speaking to anyone who would listen. He eventually by weight of personal charm won the day over his opponents.
mherper: How can you write about DeCode Genetics when their stock is at $2?
LANGRETH: I wasn't recommending them necessarily as an investment, although I'd argue that it is not a terrible deal right now. I chose them because Kari is doing something that will very likely change the course of science and lead to fundamental discoveries. Whether it leads to a successful business is another question entirely. But since you ask, I figure that unlike many tiny biotechs, DeCode has something unique--the genetic access to an entire country. It doesn't mean they won't go out of business someday. But in the meantime, they are almost certain to have a big impact on science.

Does he have stock in DeCODE??????? It did track up on the day of publication.

We have to be careful to fully investigate our sources. Whom do you trust when giving you information about genetic testing? The company spokesman? The company that sells the tests? What about the middle man? We are entering nebulous waters where the lines of relation can still be hidden. Even from google. When you publish for a peer reviewed journal you have conflict of interest disclosures required. How come we don't have the same for a well read and respected magazine/website?

The Sherpa Says:
Mr Langreth has done some crack reporting on several topics, but to include the DeCODE TCF7L2 test as one that will change your life is a HUGE LIE!!! This test is a party trick at best, a distraction that could lead you to not getting your fasting blood sugar tested (The standard of care for early diagnosis). At best he just boosted deCODE stock. At worst he led you down the wrong trail. Be careful, some who play sherpas actually have stock in the pack the tell you to carry.


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