FDA Loosens Its Shackles on 23andMe Personal Genomics Company

Still forbidden to tell customers nearly 90 percent of what the company used to be able to share



Back in 2013 the regulators at the Food and Drug Administration basically shut down the burgeoning field of direct-to-consumer personal genomics when it ordered the genotype screening company 23andMe to stop testing new consumers for genetic health risks. Why? Because the regulators had ginned up some speculative scenarios in which, for example, a woman who tested positive for a deleterious BRCA breast cancer variant would run to her kitchen, grab a butcher knife, and lop off her breasts (I exaggerate slightly.) As a long time and happy 23andMe customer, I was particularly irked by the FDA's nonsensical decision to keep people in the dark about their genetic makeup.

Before the FDA brought its hammer down, 23andMe was developing a wonderful explanatory interface to help customers understand their genetic information. The company provided some insights on more than 200 health risks, drug responses, and inherited traits—and was adding more all of the time.

After 2013, the company was allowed to tell folks what their genes suggested about their ancestry and traits like dry earwax or the likelihood that their second toes are longer than their big toes. (As if anyone needs genetic tests to discern that information.) In their "wellness" reports, the company could inform customers about how their genes affect the speed with which they metabolize caffeine or their tolerance for milk.

Today, the company is announcing that the FDA is loosening its noose a bit and permitting it to tell customers some genetic risk information for ten different conditions, including late-onset Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, celiac disease and hereditary thrombophilia (harmful blood clots). As an early customer, the company had already provided me with some genetic insights with regard to all of these health risks, plus about 140 others.

Here's hoping that the Trump administration will roll back these unnecessary regulations and free up personal genome companies like 23andMe to provide Americans with access to their genetic information.

To find out what's genetically wrong with me, click over to SNPedia where I have posted the results of my 23andMe genotype screening tests for all to see.