General Government & Technology Medical Technology

23andme and you and the FDA

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More thinking on this subject.

Over on The Economist website someone wrote in that United Healthcare is behind the FDA’s attack on 23andme. Apparently they have a long history of complaints about 23. And they have friends at the FDA. United Healthcare, like many, are worried they are not getting their slice of the huge pie that is genetics testing. The market is estimated at 25 billion over the next decade.

Insert here one issue raising its head in the conversation – privacy and piracy. Some are saying genetic info can be used against you. Anything can be used against you: your name, social security number, cc info, DOB…but they also are quite useful to you to live a functional life today. The same is true of genetic information. Being a chicken little is only first stage resistance to something new. People used to argue whether we should “allow” couples to know the gender of the unborn baby when that issue first arose. We allowed it and we survived. Same again here. To function in the medical world of the future we need to have our DNA decoded.

It will be either at birth or through 23andme or maybe it will be both. Insurance companies will demand the info – it benefits everyone to know, e.g. that you don’t respond to Prozac. They won’t pay for it and you don’t have to be called noncompliant when you stop taking the stuff. It will be cost effective to have genes tested.

This is all going to work out: the quacks in the middle are demanding their cut and they will get it. Genetics will be Rx and you have to have a “consultation” pre and post. The issue isn’t IF genetics will be corporate info, it is WHEN.

Anne Wojcicki isn’t going anywhere. 23andme is here to stay. Stanford, NIH, Johnson and Johnson, are all involved. And Google is embedded. I suspect this is a changing point and one that puts 23andme on the map and in the chips quickly. Need an Rx? Fine..send them to 23andme.

Everyone is going to slice this pie and in the end, medicine/health will be genetically based. It has to be – we know it, we have medicalized and monetized it and what remains is full scale deployment.

But we also need to educate people that they are in charge of their DNA and health – that if you are high risk, you CAN make a genetic difference by lifestyle. Stress, soda, and sourdough bread can make you diabetic, especially if you have a pre-disposition genetically. Enter epigenetics: environment interacting with your genes. This is so exciting – we can be in charge, more so than ever before. Our DNA, our lifestyle, our choice. No Rx needed to stop eating red meat and potato chips. That mammogram? Radiation causes mutations – maybe you don’t want one every other Friday.

We have a chance to mold the future. Let’s do it. Torpedo the old paternalistic system, take charge of your genes, get them to express or not. Live long and thrive 🙂

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