Direct-to-consumer testing: more risks than opportunities


  • Disclosure

Prof Giuseppe Lippi,
U.O. Diagnostica Ematochimica, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Parma, Via Gramsci, 14, 43176 – Parma, Italy
Tel.: +0039 0521 703050;
Fax: +0039 0521 703197


As a result of incessant genetic discoveries and remarkable technological advancements, the availability and the consequent consumer’s request for genetic testing are growing exponentially, leading to the development of a ‘parallel’ market, i.e. the direct-to-consumer (DTC) testing, also known as ‘direct access testing’ (DAT). Analogous to the traditional laboratory diagnostics, drawbacks of DTC testing might arise from any step characterising the total testing process, and include poor control of both appropriateness and preanalytical requirements, potential operation outside national or international regulation for in vitro diagnostic testing, little evidence of quality as well as the risk of transfer of genetic materials from the companies to other entities. Another important issue is the test panels offered to consumers, which are often based on preliminary, speculative or unsupported scientific information. Finally, the potential of this type of testing to generate anxiety or false reassurance should also be carefully considered. Although DTC testing carries some theoretical advantages (e.g. greater consumer autonomy and empowerment), solid clinical studies and costs vs. benefit analyses are needed to definitely establish whether DTC testing might be effective for decreasing the burden of diseases, delay their onset or modify their progression and therefore the clinical outcome.