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CVS Joins Walgreens With No DNA Box on the Shelf – But What About the Marketing to Consumers on Tests?

Posted May 19 2010 10:30am

I have written here about the various plans to market “genetic benefits” here with most of the recent announcements.  Granted if a doctor believes a test should be done prior to writing a prescription, then we follow the advice of the doctor, but from what I have seen in recent articles here the plan of action got a little crowded here and has the potential of confusing both consumers and physicians, and it’s not just a matter of a “box on the shelf”, that is the minimal part of the issue.  Perhaps the FDA feels that this availability would encourage more consumers to delve into getting their DNA tests?  Also, you have to remember this is not an inexpensive proposition with individuals finding it difficult today just to be able to afford normal medications prescribed. image

My opinion here on the topic is that the doctors were somewhat being left out of the solution with the pharmacies more or less taking charge here with tests and certainly there’s both side of the coin.  If a patient is going to be prescribed a medication that is questionable on whether or not the drug would work, then the test might just be the right thing to do, but to mass market and encourage all to have tests because “they are available” could lead to further confusion.  We also have to keep sight of the fact that we now bring payers into the picture and risk management as far as cost.  Granted in time things may flow in this direction but processes and standards need to be established before we jump in feet first.  Medco outlined their plans recently.

Online if an individual wants to have their DNA tests done, they can do it and the only difference between the box on the shelf and signing up online is the box being available for purchase instead of the company mailing one out, thus again I don’t see the box on the shelf being an issue, but rather the marketing side of all of this as the cost is still $200-$300 for a standard run, whether or not the box is mailed or if were bought off the shelf.  Maybe the visibility of being on the shelf is too much at this point, none of us know about that since it has not been done. 

There’s definitely money here to be made with encouraging employers to pay for such tests with plans where employer provided insurance comes into play, and we need to remember privacy issues here too and everything as it is today we still need to worry about the “evil twin payer” getting a hold of the information and possibly using it to “score” a patient, whether it is done officially or off the records.  It’s like hearing a comment in court where the judge says “strike that from the record” but the fact that it was still heard and/or seen doesn’t change.  Even with not being official and not able to be used officially or legally in an evaluation, such information could ultimately lead to looking for loopholes in other areas to “score” and assess risk.  We have seen that in a couple recent court cases, so to be legally correct, best bet would not to have the information available to see at all. 

I don’t think we or the sequencing business has matured enough to jump into the mass marketing here and you can’t ignore the fact that marketing does occur today as it is all around us, healthcare included, just look at how hospitals market for a simple example and it doesn’t stop there.  Who would have ever thought a few years ago that hospitals would have to market like we are seeing today, and some of it is a bit redundant to a degree too.  image

It does get confusing today, what is marketing and what is a good decision and is the pressure from marketing pushing a decision that maybe doesn’t need to be present?  There’s a lot to think about there and companies need to show some area of responsibility when it comes to better patient care and see both sides and not just focus on how much money it will bring to the bottom line, in other words balance.  When everything is only profit driven, consumers will not follow and trust corporate marketing plans as eventually it comes out in the water as to what the full circle plan is. 

As I have suggested before, it’s a good idea to read what those who have been sequenced have to say about their results and what impact is has or has not had on their lives, here’s a couple links:

Steven Pinkerton, Harvard Professor of Psychology talks about his genome, what he found out, what he learned, and how the psychological interpretations are somewhat still up for discussion
Charlie Rose - Personalized Medicine with Steven Pinker, Anne Wojcicki, George Church and Linda Avey
The Burden of Knowing – Genetic Sequencing and what you might find out

You can search around my blog too as there are more if you want to listen to some who have gone through the process so you kind of know up front what to expect and what decision processes it may present.  BD 

CVS Caremark Corp. is joining rival Walgreen Co. in shelving plans to sell personal genetic testing kits following federal regulatory scrutiny of the supplier of the product.

Deerfield-based Walgreens reversed its decision to carry Pathway Genomics' test kits Thursday, the day before they were scheduled to hit the shelves of 6,000 of its drugstores. CVS confirmed Tuesday that it will hold off on its plans to begin selling the kits in August.

Buyers of the kit send a sample of saliva to a Pathway laboratory by mail and receive a genetic health report online. The tests claim to assess the risk of dozens of health conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer and obesity .

Some scientists are concerned that consumers will misuse or misunderstand the results.

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