Monday, July 2, 2007

Britain Needs A Sherpa!

I just received an email from a reader who pointed my attention towards a popular morning program in the UK. They interviewed a person who had taken a genetic risk test despite the significant cost (I am uncertain of the test). The costs online are up to 1000 pounds, almost 2000 USD!

She did this simply because she was concerned about pancreatic cancer (her father had died of it as age 69). She announced that she was free of the risk of pancreatic cancer but had learned that she shouldn't take HRT and had stopped it.

She had also learned that she was at risk for age-related Alzhemers' (although the discussion wasn't at all clear". The discussion ended with the enthusiasm for the testing from doctor who is associated with the TV show and a call from the lay-woman that such comprehensive screening should be made available on the NHS.

My reader did think that it was interesting that there was no discussion as to the considerable potential costs to the NHS of follow-ups that have to be ordered after such screening.

The company feature in this show was GeneticHealth and from the looks of it they are cashing in on the snake oil gravy train. Francis Collins has warned of this type of testing. You can tell what they aim to do by looking at their news headlines "Could your DNA hold the key to a wrinkle-free face and a great figure?"

Thanks To Shinga Xavier for the heads up on this madness.

The Sherpa Says: How come no one in the UK is railing against a company like this. In the US there are significant consumer protection laws. Still even here they fall short in protecting completely. This woman thinks she is risk free of pancreatic cancer........Doubtful. What kind of doctor do you have on the Boob-Tube speaking the benefits of this bogus testing? The answer....He's a boob on the tube! Direct To Consumer Testing for non binary tests is absolutely dangerous and must be stopped!!! The Sherpa is Hoppin Mad!!!


Hsien Lei said...

FYI, the UK has GeneWatch .org a very active group that monitors genetic technology. I believe they successfully lobbied merchants urging them not to sell nutrigenomic tests over the counter.

Shinga said...

Thank you so much for covering this issue. I was very disturbed by it because of the cost (you were right - the individual profile cost around $2000 dollars) and the fact that I didn't think that this sort of screening could claim such certainty.

The same company offers a nutrigenomics test. It seemed from the TV item as if the TV doctor had not only had the screening for potential diseases but also the nutrigenomics profile - an additional £265 or $500+.

I assume that the doctor had this test because there was some mention that he lacked some 'de-toxing' gene that meant he would be 700% more at risk for developing lung cancer if he were a smoker (which he isn't).

I wish that I had known about the item in advance because I would have recorded it and uploaded it to YouTube.

Steve Murphy MD said...

It turns out you are correct Britain has a sherpa! Thanks.
Shinga I am so glad you pointed this out to me. This is one of the great things about having such an active readership :)

Shinga said...

Just to say that I contacted Gene Watch and received an interesting response. There may be more on this to report in a few weeks!

Steve Murphy MD said...

Keep me in the loop. I would love to hear what they have to say.